Tour operators and hotel groups sign up to Saudi tourism growth project

Saudi Arabia plans to create 1.2 million jobs in the tourism sector by 2030. (AN photo/Mo Gannon)
Updated 23 April 2018
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Tour operators and hotel groups sign up to Saudi tourism growth project

  • Vision 2030 has a goal to create 1.2 million new jobs in the industry
  • We are participating here to show people that Saudi Arabia has really changed: tour operator

DUBAI: From diving in the Red Sea to sand-skating in the desert, from Jazan’s Fifa Mountains to the archaeological wonders of Al-Ula, it has been impossible not to be wowed by all that Saudi Arabia has to offer on the opening day of this year’s Arabian Travel Market in Dubai. Travel posters of its varied regions blanketed almost every pillar in the concourse, through which thousands of visitors passed on their way into the Dubai International Convention and Exhibition Center, part of a colorful Saudi tourism campaign. 

And if you somehow missed that on your way into the exhibition halls, then you couldn’t have missed the Saudi pavilion, featuring 60 travel-related agencies under the umbrella of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage.

“We are participating here to show people that Saudi Arabia has really changed,” said Abeer Al-Rashed, project co-ordinator for Al Sarh Travel and Tourism, which organizes tours and helps with visa arrangements. “It’s not just a desert in Saudi Arabia. We have a lot of activities.”

The expanded role of tourism under Vision 2030, which has a goal to create 1.2 million new jobs in the industry, is top of mind for those with a foothold already in the region.

“We are thrilled at this accelerated pace of growth in Saudi Arabia and want to make sure that we’re aligned with that,” said Simon Casson, president of hotel operations for Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts in Europe, the Middle East and Africa. Its Riyadh hotel, Four Seasons’ first in the Gulf when it opened in 2002, is now offering a tour of the Tuwaiq escarpment, otherwise known as the Edge of the World. 

Four Seasons’ plans for a hotel in Makkah, announced in the fall, are in the design phase, with construction expected to begin next year. “The site of the hotel is really the last remaining piece of land that’s ringside, if you like, and has a direct view facing onto the Kaaba, so that will partner very well with our Riyadh hotel,” Casson said.

As for more hotels? “I would say stay-tuned because we’re actively working on other opportunities within Saudi Arabia — not things we can announce at this time but we see a tremendous amount of opportunity as we look forward.”

Omer Kaddouri, Rotana’s president and CEO, also sees tremendous potential. It’s operating four hotels in the Kingdom right now and will have three more by the end of the year. 

“They’re building more reasons to travel there,” Kaddouri said, speaking of the recent changes. “I’d like to say that by the time they’ve reached their 2030 vision, Rotana will have no less than 20 operating hotels in the Kingdom, with more in the pipeline.”

As for the long-awaited Nobu Hotel in Riyadh, Khaled Al-Ashqar, director of sales and marketing, said it’s “very close” to opening. The boutique hotel, with a restaurant by chef Nobu Matsuhisa, will also have a tea lounge and a live cooking station in the Royal Suite. “I’m 100 percent sure it will be the spot of the city,” Al-Ashqar said.


Bored? Six movies made in Lebanon you have to watch today

Updated 16 min 57 sec ago
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Bored? Six movies made in Lebanon you have to watch today

DUBAI: Lebanese Director Nadine Labaki’s heart-breaking drama, “Capharnaüm,” is going from strength to strength, having won big in Cannes last week, but it’s not the only piece of cinematic history to be set in Lebanon. If you're truly the arty type, you would not let a language barrier get in the way so stick on the subtitles, or find someone who is willing to translate, and enjoy!

‘West Beirut’ (1998)

Ziad Doueiri’s hit received heaps of praise following its release. The plot follows a group of youths navigating around the struggles that erupted following the start of the 1975 Lebanese Civil War in a wonderfully balanced comedic and dramatic narrative.

‘Caramel’ (2007)

Directed by Nadine Labaki, the film follows the lives of five Lebanese women as they face the everyday problems that haunt them. It’s a fun break away from the usual politically charged films set in the country.

‘Very Big Shot’ (2015)

“Film Kteer Kbir” in Arabic, this flick follows the efforts of a minor drug dealer and his brothers from a working-class area of Beirut as they try to pull off the biggest drug smuggle of their careers by moving the goods through a fake film set. Think “Argo” meets “Scarface” — sort of.

‘The Insult’ (2017)

Lebanon’s first nomination at the Academy Awards was Ziad Doueiri’s “The Insult” in 2018. It follows a court case between a Christian Lebanese man and a Muslim Palestinian refugee after an altercation between the two.

‘Ghadi’ (2013)

Written by famous Lebanese comedy actor Georges Khabbaz, “Ghadi” follows the story of how the family of a young child with special needs tricks their village into thinking he’s an angel after the town seeks to evict him.

‘Zozo’ (2005)

Zozo takes place against the backdrop of the 1975 Lebanese Civil War. As citizens flee the country and its dangers, a Lebanese boy gets separated from his family and ends up in Sweden. The film draws inspiration from director Josef Fares’ own experience fleeing the war.