Innovation key to boosting Saudi tourism sector, say experts

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Tourists who have been to Dubai and other Gulf countries miss the Arabian authenticity that Saudi Arabia can provide, Makkah Economic Forum hears. (AN photo by Huda Bashatah)
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Tourists who have been to Dubai and other Gulf countries miss the Arabian authenticity that Saudi Arabia can provide, Makkah Economic Forum hears. (AN photo by Huda Bashatah)
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Tourists who have been to Dubai and other Gulf countries miss the Arabian authenticity that Saudi Arabia can provide, Makkah Economic Forum hears. (AN photo by Huda Bashatah)
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Tourists who have been to Dubai and other Gulf countries miss the Arabian authenticity that Saudi Arabia can provide, Makkah Economic Forum hears. (AN photo by Huda Bashatah)
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Tourists who have been to Dubai and other Gulf countries miss the Arabian authenticity that Saudi Arabia can provide, Makkah Economic Forum hears. (AN photo by Huda Bashatah)
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Tourists who have been to Dubai and other Gulf countries miss the Arabian authenticity that Saudi Arabia can provide, Makkah Economic Forum hears. (AN photo by Huda Bashatah)
Updated 08 May 2018
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Innovation key to boosting Saudi tourism sector, say experts

  • The second day of the forum in Jeddah city focused on the Hajj, Umrah and tourism sectors, and how to facilitate and improve the experiences of pilgrims and tourists.
  • Panelist says what makes the investment environment in Saudi Arabia unique and attractive is that global and local investors will need to collaborate, not compete, unlike any other investment environment in the world.

JEDDAH: About 60 speakers and panelists, most of them local and regional business leaders and experts, participated in the Makkah Economic Forum to discuss and review successful international experiences and propose innovative solutions.

The forum aims to raise the level of services provided and create an environment conducive to investments, taking into account the work to overcome any obstacles that might impede the success of the partnership between the public and private sector.

In this regard, a project follow-up office, a comprehensive service center, and an initiatives and partnership unit were established to facilitate the procedures and find immediate solutions to any obstacles.

The second day of the forum in Jeddah city focused on the Hajj, Umrah and tourism sectors, and how to facilitate and improve the experiences of pilgrims and tourists.

A wide range of investment opportunities was highlighted during the sessions. Bassam Ghulman, general supervisor of the transport sector at the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah, said: “Transportation is one of the largest windows for investment in the Makkah region,” and there are some areas of investment where the capital can be restored in a few years.

According to Ghulman, there are six main fields of investments in the transportation sector during Hajj and Umah seasons: Research and studies, logistic support, Infrastructure, transportation vehicles, technical assistance and programming, operating, and maintenance.

Salah Oumodden, managing director and vice president (operations) of Accor Hotel in Egypt and Saudi Arabia, said: “Radical change must be made on the current practices in hospitality and other sectors in order to meet with Vision 2030 goals.”

He added: “What needs to be done is: Changing the ways of communication with pilgrims, adopting sustainable modernization of services to reach the targeted goals by 2030, expanding the focus of projects outside Makkah’s central point, and customization of hospitality services to meet with what the pilgrims need.”

Yasser Al-Sharif, CEO of Jabal Omar Development Company, said: “Hospitality is not just about building and equipping hotels, it is much more than that. The story starts with how Hajj and Umrah were marketed to the pilgrims in their own countries.

“Very few efforts were made on the branding to the most important economic product we have, we need to change the system of how we think about this product.”

Highlighting the tremendous efforts from authorities during Hajj and Umrah seasons, and the ambitious goals of 2030, Regional Managing Director of Abercrombie & Kent Amr Badr said: “Saudi Arabia must be the best in the world in hospitality services.”

According to Badr, what makes the investment environment in Saudi Arabia unique and attractive is that global and local investors will need to collaborate, not compete, unlike any other investment environment in the world.

During a session about the Public Investment Fund and tourism, panelists highlighted the areas to be developed to improve tourists' experience, such as tourism and hospitality fields of education, better collaboration with the private sector, facilitation and clarification of visa procedures, availability of information online, saving and focusing on the authenticity of the cities, and using more technology.

“Tourism in the Kingdom provides a different and interesting experience of the diversity of the environment and different terrain, landscapes and cultures,” Badr said.

“Tourists who have been to Dubai and other Gulf countries miss the Arabian authenticity, that Saudi Arabia is the perfect spot for tourists coming to the Gulf,” said Gery Romanescu, PwC, Hospitality and Tourism Center of Excellence EMKA.  “Keep the authentic life of the streets. This is what tourists want to see. They want to have an authentic experience.”

Andre Mack, the director of Lausanne Hospitality Consulting, strongly believes in the importance of education in building the tourism sector of any country, and he has helped in developing universities' curricula. He said: “We designed programs that are compatible with the curricula of the tourism and hotel colleges in the Kingdom to communicate knowledge to the community about the importance of tourism.

“Students are the ones who are going to decide what the future of tourism will look like in the Kingdom,” he said.


Preachers of Hate: Arab News launches series to expose hate-mongers from all religions

Updated 12 min 24 sec ago
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Preachers of Hate: Arab News launches series to expose hate-mongers from all religions

  • Daesh may be defeated, but the bigoted ideas that fueled their extremism live on
  • Campaign could not be more timely, with a rise in anti-Muslim hate crimes since Christchurch attacks

RIYADH: Dozens of Daesh militants emerged from tunnels to surrender to Kurdish-led forces in eastern Syria on Sunday, a day after their “caliphate” was declared defeated.

Men filed out of the battered Daesh encampment in the riverside village of Baghouz near the Iraqi border to board pickup trucks. “They are fighters who came out of tunnels and surrendered today,” Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) spokesman Jiaker Amed said. “Some others could still be hiding inside.”

World leaders hail Saturday’s capture of the last shred of land controlled by Daesh in Syria, but the top foreign affairs official for the semi-autonomous Kurdish region warned that Daesh captives still posed a threat.

“There are thousands of fighters, children and women and from 54 countries, not including Iraqis and Syrians, who are a serious burden and danger for us and for the international community,” Abdel Karim Omar said. “Numbers increased massively during the last 20 days of the Baghouz operation.”

 While the terrorists have a suffered a defeat, the pernicious ideologies that drive them, and the hate speech that fuels those ideologies, live on. For that reason Arab News today launches Preachers of Hate — a weekly series, published in print and online, in which we profile, contextualize and analyze extremist preachers from all religions, backgrounds and nationalities.

In the coming weeks, our subjects will include the Saudi cleric Safar Al-Hawali, the Egyptian preacher Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, the American-Israeli rabbi Meir Kahane, the Yemeni militia leader Abdul Malik Al-Houthi, and the US pastor Terry Jones, among others.

The series begins today with an investigation into the background of Brenton Tarrant, the Australian white supremacist who shot dead 50 people in a terrorist attack 10 days ago on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand.

Tarrant is not just a terrorist, but is himself a Preacher of Hate, author of a ranting manifesto that attempts to justify his behavior. How did a shy, quiet boy from rural New South Wales turn into a hate-filled gunman intent on killing Muslims? The answers may surprise you.

Our series could not be more timely — anti-Muslim hate crimes in the UK have soared by almost 600 percent since the Christchurch attack, it was revealed on Sunday.

The charity Tell MAMA (Measuring Anti-Muslim Attacks), which records and measures anti-Muslim incidents, said almost all of the increase comprised “language, symbols or actions linked to the Christchurch attacks.”

“Cases included people making gestures of pointing a pistol at Muslim women and comments about British Muslims and an association with actions taken by the terrorist in New Zealand,” the charity said.

“The spike shows a troubling rise after Muslims were murdered in New Zealand,” said Iman Atta, director of Tell MAMA. “Figures have risen over 590 percent since New Zealand in comparison to the week just before the attack.