Saudi businessman highlights KAEC’s meteoric rise

Amr M. Khashoggi
Updated 12 December 2017

Saudi businessman highlights KAEC’s meteoric rise

JEDDAH: A leading Saudi businessman has highlighted the meteoric growth of King Abdullah Economic City (KAEC). In an interview with Arab News, Amr M. Khashoggi, vice president of human resources and group affairs at the Jeddah-based Zahid Group, said: “We (the Zahid Group) were the first tenants in KAEC.
“We signed a contract to build a lubricant plant as a joint venture between the Zahid Group and Total. We signed the agreement in Dubai when there was absolutely nothing in KAEC. When the cornerstone was laid by the late King Abdullah, there were Saudi, Emaar, Total and Zahid flags. There was nothing else.”
In the years since, KAEC has expanded beyond recognition — according to the BBC, it will eventually be “a metropolis slightly larger than Washington DC.” The Zahid Group, major investors in heavy machinery, transport, energy and a few other industries, has grown alongside it.
“Once the (King Abdullah) port at KAEC was operational, that was the kick-off and the engine behind greater investment by the Zahid Group in the City,” said Khashoggi, 65.
“That’s why we invested in building a truck assembly plant with Volvo in addition to our collaboration with Total. We also created a logistics hub called Wared Logistics, and we’ll soon be opening our Casper and Gambini’s fine dining restaurant at the new Views Hotel, where we’ll handle all the catering for the hotel expected to open soon at KAEC.”
Khashoggi described the Zahid Group as “firm believers” in KAEC and its mission. He cited the strategic location of the city — with road, sea, land and air connections nearby — and the vision behind it as reasons for that belief.
“There’s also a very good environment for living,” he added. “A lot of young people are going to come here.”
As someone who has lived under the reign of every Saudi king, Khashoggi said there has never been a better time to live and work in the country.
He is bullish about the way the country is developing for the next generation under “a young, vibrant, visionary leader,” Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
“We’ve entered a new era in Saudi Arabia. Vision 2030 is becoming more and more of a reality,” Khashoggi said.
“Saudi Arabia has opened its doors to serious investment from abroad, which will come in hundreds and billions of dollars,” he added.
“The country is moving ahead. We have a very young population. What we need is to provide our young men and women with skills that would map with the job requirement,” he said.
“At Zahid, we have women engineers with high technical skills; they can even operate the enormous Caterpillar equipment, which is very impressive, and starting next June will be able to drive cars on Saudi roads,” Khashoggi added.
“We want to make sure the young people of Saudi Arabia have the necessary skills to match the job requirements. Without that, it will be very challenging for us to create jobs and employ people in sustainable ways.”
Khashoggi was impressed by the youthful dynamism of several speakers he saw at a recent forum at KAEC — including the city’s CEO Fahad Al-Rasheed; Ibrahim Al-Omar, governor of the Saudi Arabia General Investment Authority (SAGIA); and Mohanud Helal, secretary-general of the Economic Cities Authority. This has left him convinced “the City is in good hands.”
“We’re a very young country. We’re learning and moving very rapidly. I feel very optimistic about the future,” Khashoggi said.
His message to Saudi youth is simple: “Come and board the bullet train. It’s moving very fast; if you’re not on it, you’ll be left behind.”

Positive impact of Vision 2030 on hospitality: Report

Ascott has reported a decrease of 10 percent in expat families within the Kingdom.
Updated 16 December 2018

Positive impact of Vision 2030 on hospitality: Report

The Ascott Limited has drawn up a report into the changing dynamics of guest profiles in Saudi Arabia. 

As the government’s Vision 2030 economic diversification strategy proves to have a positive effect on the hospitality industry, Ascott is witnessing a notable change in its guests across the Kingdom. This has been influenced by the swift introduction of various initiatives from the removal of ban on women driving, to the introduction of cinemas, concerts with mixed-gender admission and major events such as the Formula E that was held last week in Riyadh.

“Our guest profiles are changing in line with the changing dynamics of the country. We have seen a spike in female guests of 7 percent from 2017, influenced by guests traveling for both work and leisure,” said Vincent Miccolis, Ascott’s regional GM for the Middle East, Africa and Turkey. 

Female guests have increased considerably this year, as properties across Jeddah averaged a 9 percent growth, while Ascott Rafal Olaya Riyadh experienced a growth rate of 5 percent. 

“It means there is an opportunity for the serviced residence industry to tap in to the growing number of female travelers and provide tailored services specifically for women,” explained Miccolis.

Ascott Rafal Olaya Riyadh has a women’s only leisure floor consisting of an outdoor pool, gymnasium, lounge, children’s playroom and day spa. The property is receiving positive feedback from female business travelers about the facilities.

Ascott has reported a decrease of 10 percent in expat families within the Kingdom, attributed to the introduction of expat levies on dependents. Family occupants taking two and three-bedroom apartments have moved to single occupants in a one-bedroom apartment. Miccolis said: “If the announcement made last week on Bloomberg regarding a review of the expat levies being restructured comes to fruition, it will provide a positive outcome for our industry.” 

International guests have maintained a consistent average over the last two years of 25 percent across the Kingdom, however Jeddah and Riyadh are on opposite scales. Fifty-five percent of Ascott Rafal Olaya Riyadh’s guests are international, which is a growth of 15 percent from 2017. While the four properties in Jeddah have 15 percent international guests, this is a decline of 10 percent from 2017.

“With these changing dynamics of our guests in the Kingdom, a key focus is customer service training, with the goal of exceeding guest expectations. 

This year posed a credible 92 percent customer satisfaction score, a testament to the staff in the region,” said Miccolis.