Prince Sultan: Tourism is key economic driver

Updated 01 March 2013
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Prince Sultan: Tourism is key economic driver

Prince Sultan bin Salman, president of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA), has commended the government’s support for tourism, saying it reflects the state's belief in the importance of tourism as a key economic driver and creator of jobs for citizens.
Prince Sultan was addressing the opening ceremony of “Manama: Capital of Arab Tourism 2013" at the National Theater of Bahrain yesterday under the patronage of Bahrain’s Prime Minister Prince Khalifa bin Salman Al-Khalifa.
"Tourism is an important tool for achieving significant economic development and creating huge job opportunities." He said this explains the Saudi government's persistent support of tourism, which has the added benefit of promoting the country's culture.
He stressed the Kingdom’s support and development of ongoing heritage and tourism projects.
The Council of Ministers recently approved the establishment of a specialized company for hospitality and heritage in the Kingdom. Many other resolutions are expected to be issued in this respect, reflecting government's focus on rehabilitating historical, cultural and archaeological monuments.
Prince Sultan spoke about new excavations being carried out by 25 national and international teams in various regions of the Kingdom. “We have plans to establish 12 small and big museums,” he added.
The SCTA has recovered over 14,000 antiquities and relics from abroad, in addition to 3,000 from within the Kingdom. Its heritage exhibitions in France, Spain, Russia, Germany and recently in the United States drew a large number of visitors.
Prince Sultan highlighted tourism’s role in strengthening the national economy. “Tourism contributed SR 116 billion (5.4 percent) to the country's Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and created 670,000 jobs in 2011,” he pointed out. Saudis represent 26 percent of the Kingdom’s tourism workforce.
He praised the remarkable development of Bahraini tourism, and its rehabilitation of historical sites. He said Manama was worthy of being chosen as the capital of Arab tourism given its distinguished culture and tourism projects.
"On this great occasion, we see Bahrain re-introducing itself as a home of great culture and deep-rooted history and as a home of diverse humanitarian and political growth through the ages,” the prince said. The SCTA chief saluted King Hamad for his development efforts in Bahrain, despite recent political pressures and challenges.
He emphasized the historic ties between Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. “We are proud of the continual development and modernization efforts taking place in Bahrain, especially the efforts to recover Bahrain's memory through rehabilitating heritage sites, and bringing out Bahrain's identity related to cultural aspects,” he said.
Prince Sultan commended the efforts of Saudi Arabia and other Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries to boost their development in all areas by making use of their natural and human resources.
He said the Arab world can play an important role in building a future world based on its historical accumulated knowledge. “Hence, the Arab citizen should restore his genuine position in carving out humanity’s future."
In her speech, Minister of Culture of Bahrain, Sheikha Mai bint Mohammad Al-Khalifa, welcomed Prince Sultan, commending him for attending the event.
“Saudi Arabia is a source of inspiration for us in light of its cultural and historical potential,” she said.


‘Because I can’: ride-hailing app welcomes Saudi women drivers

Updated 25 June 2018
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‘Because I can’: ride-hailing app welcomes Saudi women drivers

  • The Dubai-based ride-hailing app, along with global behemoth Uber, say they would begin to hire women
  • Seventy percent of Careem’s customers in Saudi Arabia are women

RIYADH: Reem Farahat waited for a ride request. Her phone pinged. “I’ve already cried twice,” she said, heading out to work as one of Saudi Arabia’s first female drivers for Careem.
The Dubai-based ride-hailing app, along with global behemoth Uber, reacted to Saudi King Salman’s September announcement of an end to the Kingdom’s ban on female motorists by saying it would begin to hire women.
On Sunday, when the king’s decree took effect, nearly a dozen Careem “captainahs” — all Saudi women — were ready to pick up riders.
“This morning, when I got in the car, I felt the tears coming,” Reem said as she stocked her car with chilled water bottles for her riders.
“I pulled the car over and cried. I could not believe that we now drive... It’s a dream. I thought it would be totally normal, I’d just get in the car and go. I was surprised by my own reaction.”
She took a long pause.
“I didn’t expect it,” she said. “I’m doing this because I can. Because someone has to start.”
Seventy percent of Careem’s customers in Saudi Arabia are women, according to company statistics, a figure largely attributable to the Kingdom’s now-obsolete ban on women driving.
Uber puts its equivalent figure closer to 80 percent.
At Careem’s offices on Sunday, staff gathered to celebrate the women’s first day on the job.
Farahat’s first ride request came just hours after the ban was officially lifted.
“This is my first ride. I’m excited. I’m excited to know who I’m picking up, what their reaction is going to be,” she said.
The driver — who also works with her father as a quality control consultant, is training in life coaching, and scuba dives with her sister off the Red Sea city of Jeddah — picked up Leila Ashry from a local cafe.
Walking toward the car, Leila spotted Reem, did a little jump of joy on the sidewalk, and was already chatting as she opened the door.
“Oh my god I can’t believe it’s you. I can’t believe you’re here. I can’t believe I’m here,” Leila said.
“I’ve been tweeting to my friends that my ride is coming and it’s a woman! And you’re so pretty! And I can sit in the front now — wait, can I actually sit in the front next to you?“
Some 2,000 women have signed up to get their Careem licenses since September, said Abdulla Elyas, co-founder and CPO — “chief people officer” — of the ride-hailing app. They are all Saudi women, from their 20s to their 50s.
Uber also plans to introduce women drivers to their service this autumn.
“They come from completely different backgrounds,” Elyas told AFP.
“We have women who have degrees, a master’s degree. We have women who have no degree at all. We have women who want to do this full time. We have women who want to do this part time (for) an additional income, who are already working.”
Most of those who had been licensed by Sunday, like Reem, had permits from foreign countries, enabling them to skip driving courses and take the final exam for a Saudi license.
The “captainahs” can pick up any customer, man or woman.
Both the driver and rider have the right to end the ride at any point.
Leila, a young medical student with a pixie cut and bright smile, says she would still choose a woman.
“This automatically feels a lot safer... being a female and dealing with sexism on a day-to-day basis. There’s just something about it that feels wonderful. But it’s not only that. It’s also women joining the workforce,” she said.
Sitting in the front passenger seat, she recalled previous rides with male drivers.
“Before, sometimes they would stare at me from the mirror,” she said.
“It’s just like that thing we share with women, where we just automatically understand what it’s like to be in that position where you feel their eyes on you but you can’t say anything, you can’t do anything against it.”
She turned to chat to Reem, and sang a riff from a West Side Story tune before saying: “If you can do it, then I can do it.”
“See? That’s what I was talking about,” Reem said. “It’s that ripple effect.”