Private sector’s role in improving Hajj, Umrah services highlighted in Jeddah forum

The modern facilities will enable pilgrims to complete their Hajj and Umrah rituals more easily. (SPA/File)
Updated 28 November 2018

Private sector’s role in improving Hajj, Umrah services highlighted in Jeddah forum

  • Makkah Mayor Mohammad Al-Quwahess reveals "to fully embrace technology and convert Makkah to a smart city"

JEDDAH: The role of entrepreneurs and emerging companies in regional economies and in the Hajj and Umrah sector was discussed during the opening day of Saudi Forum for Emerging Companies. 

The event, at the Ritz-Carlton in Jeddah, was organized by the Small and Medium Enterprises General Authority (Monsha’at) under the title “Emerging companies and their role in the regional economy... the model of emerging entrepreneurial companies in the Hajj and Umrah sector.”

Dr. Mohammed Salih Bentin, minister of Hajj and Umrah, said in his opening remarks that he hopes that the modern facilities being developed for pilgrims will enable them to complete their Hajj and Umrah rituals more easily using smart devices, and that the quality of the services on offer will be exemplary. 

He noted that there will be no complacency in ensuring the highest standards of hygiene or in other related areas.

“The enrichment of the Hajj and Umrah experience with historic and entertainment sites is an important goal that we seek to achieve through the unique efforts of entrepreneurs,” he added. “We are waiting for them and welcome all their ideas and suggestions.”

Saleh Al-Rasheed, governor of Monsha’at, said that the role of the authority is to create “a suitable environment for entrepreneurship. We work with (entrepreneurs) hand in hand and hope that the emerging projects have distinctive ideas in the service of pilgrims.”

Ultimately, he added, the market will be the judge of the success of these ideas and projects, and Monsha’at supports and protects entrepreneurs throughout the process.

Makkah Mayor Mohammad Al-Quwahess said that the aim is to fully embrace technology and convert Makkah to a smart city, and that it is important to think outside the box when planning and hosting the pilgrimage season.

Amer Al-Qahtani, deputy director for research and innovation at Elm Information Security, stressed the importance of creating a nurturing environment in which to address the ideas and challenges relating to the Hajj and Umrah sector, with the aim of building and developing technical solutions. 

Ahmed Al-Thenayan, deputy minister for technology industry and digital capacities, announced that a campaign will soon be launched, in cooperation with Monsha’at, to support and develop the Hajj sector.

Nawaf Al-Sahaf, CEO of Badir Program, an organization that helps to support and develop technology-based business ideas, said that non-Saudis should be given a chance to participate in the Hajj and Umrah programs because they offer a different perspective.

How the Crown Prince’s visit to South Korea is advancing Vision 2030

Updated 41 min 32 sec ago

How the Crown Prince’s visit to South Korea is advancing Vision 2030

  • Mohammed bin Salman and South Korean President Moon Jae-in agree to a Vision Realization Office in Riyadh and Seoul
  • Business deals that redefine their traditional oil partnership include eco-friendly automobile technology and hydrogen energy

SEOUL: Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s history-making visit to South Korea has taken Saudi Arabia a step closer to achieving its Vision 2030 economic transformation following the establishment of a joint “Vision Realization Office” that will expand business cooperation between the two countries beyond their traditional oil partnership.

The crown prince met with South Korean President Moon Jae-in at the presidential Blue House after being welcomed by Prime Minister Lee Nak-yeon at a VIP airfield in Seongnam, south of Seoul, earlier on Wednesday. It is the first visit to South Korea by an heir to the throne of the world’s largest oil exporter in more than two decades.

The crown prince, who also serves as deputy prime minister and minister of defense, stressed that he would invest more in South Korea, focusing on expanding bilateral collaboration in the fields of energy, automotive, tourism and health.

“South Korea has made tremendous success in Saudi Arabia. I hope South Korea will do the same to further improve the bilateral relationship,” the crown prince was quoted by a Blue House spokesman as saying.

“People of both countries will thrive through cooperation in the sectors of defense and economy.”

Moon pledged to provide full support for Saudi Arabia’s efforts to diversify its economic portfolio, breaking away from its dependence on the energy segment.

The two leaders discussed ways of boosting their relationship, with a focus on the new industrial sectors of information and communications technology, hydrogen energy, robots, health, medical service and culture.

Both sides “reaffirmed their strategic partnership regarding Saudi Vision 2030,” a joint press release said. “In this regard, the two leaders agreed to set up the ‘Vision Realization Office’ in both Riyadh and Seoul, respectively, as part of efforts to expedite bilateral efforts for the successful Vision 2030 partnership.”

At a luncheon hosted by Moon, South Korea’s business tycoons greeted the crown prince and other Saudi delegates.

Among the business leaders were Lee Jae-yong, vice chairman of Samsung Electronics; Chung Eui-sun, vice chairman of Hyundai Motor Group; Chey Tae-won, chairman of SK Group; LG chairman Koo Kwang-mo; and Chung Ki-sun, senior executive vice president of Hyundai Heavy Industries.

“I hope companies from both nations can set up a strategic and cooperative relationship through vibrant business activity,” the crown prince said.

Later in the day, he was invited to Samsung’s VIP guesthouse in Itaewon, Seoul, for more discussions on business partnerships with young South Korean representatives, a Samsung spokesman told Arab News.


• $8.3bn - Estimated worth of economic deals signed on Wednesday

• 16 - Number of MoUs between the two governments, including agreements related to eco-friendly automobile technology and hydrogen energy

• 15 - Number of MoUs signed by the Saudi business delegation

• $6bn - Value of the deal signed by Saudi Aramco and S-Oil, South Korea’s third-biggest oil refiner, to build refinery and downstream facilities in South Korea

• $1.8bn - Cost of developing a propane dehydrogenation and polypropylene complex in Jubail, a joint project between SK Gas and Saudi’s Advanced Petrochemical (APC)

According to the Blue House spokesman, Seoul and Riyadh signed a total of 16 memorandums of understanding (MoUs), including agreements related to eco-friendly automobile technology and hydrogen energy.

“Based on the latest MoUs with Saudi Arabia, South Korean companies will lay the groundwork for advancing into the Middle East region in the fields of green cars, hydrogen energy supply, hydrogen fuel cell and others,” Minister of Trade, Industry and Energy, Sung Yun-mo, told reporters.

On top of the government agreements, eight MoUs between companies have been signed. The value of the agreements is estimated at $8.3 billion, the minister added.

Among the lucrative business deals are Saudi Aramco’s petrochemical project with S-Oil,  South Korea’s third-biggest oil refiner. Under the $6 billion deal the refinery will build a facility to produce ethylene and other basic chemicals out of naphtha and refinery off-gas, as well as olefin downstream facilities in Ulsan, about 400 km southeast of Seoul, by 2024.

Another high-profile agreement is on hydrogen cars. “The collaboration of Hyundai and Saudi Aramco will cover not only existing projects but also future-oriented business plans,” Chung Eui-sun, Hyundai’s vice chairman, said in a statement.

“This MoU will be an opportunity to help further solidify our strategic cooperative partnership,” he added.

Under the partnership, the two companies will cooperate in establishing hydrogen-charging infrastructure in South Korea and supply hydrogen fuel-cell electric cars in Saudi Arabia.

Other MoUs include Aramco’s joint investment with Hyundai Heavy Industries to build a ship engine plant in the King Salman Global Maritime Industries Complex, and a joint project between SK Gas and Saudi’s Advanced Petrochemical (APC) to develop a $1.8 billion propane dehydrogenation and polypropylene complex in Jubail.

On a political note, Moon and the crown prince condemned terror activities harming energy security and regional stability in the Middle East, including this week’s deadly attack by Yemen’s Houthi rebels on Abha’s civilian airport in southern Saudi Arabia.

The crown prince promised to help with South Korea’s possible fuel shortages in case of supply disruption caused by tensions in the Middle East, while both leaders called for international efforts to secure energy safety at the Strait of Hormuz, where two Japanese oil tankers were struck by unidentified attacks.

South Korea imported 101.5 million barrels of crude oil from Saudi Arabia, Seoul’s biggest oil supplier, in the first four months of this year, down 2.7 percent from a year ago, according to data from state-run Korea National Oil Corp.