Saudi Arabia wants to be top tourism destination for Muslim travelers

A morning scene of pilgrims in Madinah. Saudi Arabia aims to become the top global destination for Muslim holidaymakers. (Shutterstock)
Updated 08 November 2017
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Saudi Arabia wants to be top tourism destination for Muslim travelers

LONDON: Saudi Arabia wants to be the top global destination for Muslim tourists by the end of the decade according to a top official.
It comes amid a massive push to develop the Kingdom’s Red Sea coastline and maximize tourism spending among the millions of Muslims who already visit the Kingdom each year as part of Hajj and Umrah.
“We want to beat Dubai, Malaysia and Turkey to the top spot,” said a senior official at the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage (SCNH) in an interview on the sidelines of the World Travel Market in London.
“We have different projects in the pipeline and we are developing our pilgrimage sites. We are opening up our historical sites, we have five UNESCO sites and we are aiming to have 10 by 2020.
“We have everything in Saudi. Our history gives us competitive advantage. We have a beautiful natural landscape and thousands of years of Islamic and pre-Islamic history. We are open to all,” said the spokesman.
“For Muslims, we have the advantage that everything is already halal here.”
Saudi Arabia is planning to develop hundreds of kilometers of its Red Sea coastline as a global tourism destination and has enlisted the help of Virgin Group chief Richard Branson to advise on the ambitious project, which is a key plank of ongoing economic reforms.
The Kingdom is in the “final stages” of ratifying its much-anticipated tourist visas, which would grant unrestricted leisure travel in the country, the spokesman confirmed.
“We expect the tourist visa to be in issuance within six months.”
Currently Saudi Arabia issues two-week visas for those on business, pilgrimage or visiting resident family members — but they can be difficult to obtain. A specific visa for tourists would open up the country to foreign visitors and allow access to destinations beyond the holy sites of Makkah and Madinah.
The tourism official said that the Saudi government is working on ratifying tourist visas for visitors from 165 countries, including 66 Muslim countries.
He said the Kingdom would welcome all nationalities, all religions and female visitors.
“For women, they may not need to wear a headdress but it is thought an abaya will be necessary. The details of the new regulations will be confirmed with the coming months.”
He added, “Many people will be surprised by the heritage and landscapes that Saudi has. We have skiing, diving and beautiful beaches stretching across two seas.”
Dr. Yazeed Al-Shammari, founder of Arabian Nights, a major KSA tour operator, told Arab News he was looking forward to the new tourist visa “widening and developing” his business.
“People are very curious about Saudi Arabia because we have been closed for so long. Some people think that all we’ve got is sand and camels but the reality is we have much more variety and texture than that. I’ve already had many enquiries from European agents.”
Caroline Bremner, head of travel and tourism at Euromonitor, said:
“It will be interesting to see what Saudi does now as previously the focus was only on the Hajj. Saudi Arabia is a beautiful country with a lot to offer. There have been developments lately that make the country seem more attractive to visitors, such as allowing women to drive.
“As KSA opens up it will need to be very clear on what’s allowed and what’s not, so that visitors feel reassured of what the laws and customs are in Saudi, particularly after cases of tourist jailings in Dubai.
“It will also need to pay attention to the quality of its hotels and tourist experiences as it enters the world as an emerging tourist destination.”


CrowdStrike said to hire Goldman Sachs to lead IPO

Updated 20 October 2018
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CrowdStrike said to hire Goldman Sachs to lead IPO

  • IPO could come in first half of next year
  • CrowdStrike raised $200 million in June

NEW YORK: Cybersecurity software maker CrowdStrike Inc. has hired investment bank Goldman Sachs Group to prepare for an initial public offering that could come in the first half of next year, people familiar with the matter said on Friday.
CrowdStrike is aiming to be valued more than the $3 billion funding round assigned to it earlier this year, the sources added.
CrowdStrike’s IPO plans could still change, the sources cautioned, asking not to be identified because the matter is confidential.
CrowdStrike and Goldman Sachs declined to comment.
Sunnyvale, California-based CrowdStrike raised $200 million in June led by investors General Atlantic, Accel and IVP. Other major backers include CapitalG, an investment arm of Google’s parent company Alphabet Inc. and Warburg Pincus.
CrowdStrike uses artificial intelligence for its Falcon platform to prevent attacks on computers on or off the network.
CrowdStrike is trying to stand out from the hundreds of security startups that have sprouted in recent years, promising next-generation technologies to fight cyber criminals, government spies and hacker activists, who have plagued some of the world’s biggest corporations.
The recent crop of publicly listed cybersecurity companies have had a mixed stock performance. Zscaler Inc. went public in the spring and is trading 125 percent above its IPO price. Tenable Holdings Inc. is worth about 25 percent more than its IPO price. Carbon Black shares have been trading below their IPO price.
CrowdStrike was founded in 2012 by two executives who left security software maker McAfee, including George Kurtz, the startup’s chief executive.