Cars, apps and driving schools — Saudi women drivers targeted as new market

Saudi women check a car at an automobile stand in Jeddah. (AFP)
Updated 10 October 2017
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Cars, apps and driving schools — Saudi women drivers targeted as new market

BEIRUT: Ride-sharing apps, carmakers, and driving schools are targeting their newest market — Saudi Arabian women — wasting no time after the Kingdom lifted its ban on women drivers last month.
Ride-hailing service, Uber, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation on Monday it was aiming to recruit female training drivers for Saudi women who want to work for Uber by the end of the year.
The company will open its first ever “female partner support center” to be on hand to support women drivers.
“We want to do a dedicated center for females who want to be on the platform as drivers in Saudi Arabia,” Shaden Abdellatif, Uber spokeswoman for the Middle East and North Africa, said by phone from Cairo.
In a royal decree issued on Sept. 26, Saudi King Salman ordered an end by next year to the ban on women drivers.
The decision is expected to push women into the workforce and boost car sales. Uber said it wanted to be a part of the “progressive changes.”
“Your car can essentially be your small business (which) will be quite appealing for women there — it’s that idea of part-time work opportunity,” said Abdellatif.
Princess Nourah bint Abdulrahman University, an all-female school in Riyadh, announced on Twitter after the news broke that it will set up a driving school for women, a first in the country.
Carmakers were also quick to welcome the royal decree — that ordered new rules allowing women to drive be drawn up within 30 days and implemented by June 2018.
“Congratulations to all Saudi women who will now be able to drive,” Nissan said in a Twitter post depicting a license plate bearing the registration “2018 GRL.” BMW, whose X5 SUV is the group’s Middle East top-seller, also saluted the move.
The arrival of women drivers could lift Saudi car sales by 15-20 percent annually, leading forecaster LMC Automotive predicts, as the Kingdom’s “car density” of 220 vehicles per 1,000 adults rises to about 300 in 2025, closing the gap with the UAE.
However, the rule change could spell bad news for some of the 1.3 million men employed as chauffeurs in the Kingdom, including a large share of its migrant workforce.


VOX to open first multiplex cinema in Jeddah by December

Updated 17 July 2018
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VOX to open first multiplex cinema in Jeddah by December

  • VOX Cinemas will also open an IMAX theater at the Red Sea Mall, featuring the largest IMAX screen in Saudi Arabia
  • The cinema will feature 12 screens, including three GOLD by Rhodes, the first of its kind in Saudi Arabia

JEDDAH: Majid Al-Futtaim, the leading shopping mall, communities, retail and leisure pioneer, has announced it will open the first multiplex in Jeddah at the popular shopping destination Red Sea Mall by December.
This announcement marks a major milestone for the company as it begins to deliver on its goal of bringing world-class entertainment to cities across the Kingdom. It is the latest step in VOX Cinemas’ SR2 billion ($0.53 billion) investment plan that will see 600 screens open in the Kingdom over the next five years and a major pillar of a total SR16 billion investment Majid Al-Futtaim is making in Saudi Arabia’s retail and leisure sectors.
Red Sea Mall was strategically selected owing to its status as the most popular shopping destination in the western region. The mall has 145,000 square meters of gross leasable area, and other amenities for the comfort and convenience of visitors, which are projected to hit 18.5 million visitors by the end of 2018.
The cinema will feature 12 screens, including three GOLD by Rhodes, the first of its kind in Saudi Arabia. GOLD by Rhodes is a new dining concept in partnership with Michelin-starred chef Gary Rhodes, with a menu that offers a variety of classic cinema snacks with a fine-dining twist. Saudi cinema guests can order gourmet meals directly to their reclining seats while enjoying movies on digital surround-sound and wall-to-wall high-definition screens. Families can opt for KIDS, a family-friendly concept developed for children where they can watch the latest animations and adventure films in a colorful setting.
VOX Cinemas will also open an IMAX theater at the Red Sea Mall, featuring the largest IMAX screen in the Kingdom. The IMAX Experience will offer movie-goers a highly immersive film experience, allowing them to enjoy the biggest blockbusters with crystal-clear images and powerful sound you can feel.
VOX Cinemas CEO Cameron Mitchell said: “We know that the appetite for world-class movie experiences extends across the country and therefore we’re delighted to announce this latest extension of VOX Cinemas’ footprint into Jeddah.
“This is still just the beginning of the story and we look forward to further exciting announcements in the weeks and months ahead.”
Aidrous Al-Bar, managing director of Red Sea Markets Co., said: “We’re eagerly awaiting the opening of VOX Cinemas in Red Sea Mall. Our aspiration is to provide Jeddah residents and visitors with the most comprehensive retail and entertainment option.”