Saudi Arabia announces $500 billion city of robots and renewables

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Klaus Kleinfeld will be the president of the new project.
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The wind and sun will allow NEOM to be powered solely by regenerative energy
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NEOM commands a unique location to bring together the best of Arabia, Asia, Africa, Europe and America
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NEOM is developed to be independent of the Kingdom’s existing governmental framework
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Overlooking the waterfront of the Red Sea to the South and the West, and the Gulf of Aqaba, NEOM enjoys an uninterrupted coastline stretching over 468 km
Updated 25 October 2017

Saudi Arabia announces $500 billion city of robots and renewables

LONDON: Saudi Arabia on Tuesday announced plans to build a $500 billion mega city on the Kingdom’s Red Sea coast, as part of a huge national push to diversify its economy.
The 26,500 square kilometers zone, known as Neom, will focus on industries including energy and water, biotechnology, food, advanced manufacturing and entertainment, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said yesterday.
“The focus on these sectors will stimulate economic growth and diversification by nurturing international innovation and manufacturing, to drive local industry, job creation, and GDP growth in the Kingdom,” said Prince Mohammed, who is also the Chairman of the Public Investment Fund (PIF).
“Neom will attract private as well as public investments and partnerships. The zone will be backed by more than $500 billion over the coming years by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund, local as well as international investors,” he added.
The business and industrial city will be located in the Kingdom’s northwestern region and is the world’s first zone to extend across three countries, stretching its borders into neighboring Jordan and Egypt.
Adjacent to the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aqaba, and near maritime trade routes that use the Suez Canal, the zone will power itself solely with wind power and solar energy.
The city aims to offer its inhabitants “an idyllic lifestyle paired with excellent economic opportunities that surpass that of any other metropolis. It will attract Saudi Arabians and expatriates, as do all other global societies,” PIF said in a statement.

Neom is the latest project in an ambitious plan to prepare Saudi Arabia for the post-oil era, and follows of plans sell shares in oil giant Saudi Aramco, create the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund and lift the long-standing ban on female drivers.
“Neom will be constructed from the ground-up, on greenfield sites, allowing it a unique opportunity to be distinguished from all other places that have been developed and constructed over hundreds of years,” he said.
PIF said in a statement that the first phase of the city would be complete in 2025. “(Neom) seeks to seize the great economic opportunities of the future by investing in them with confidence and vigor,” the investment body said.
“Neom provides a key opportunity to minimize GDP leakage by allowing those that normally would invest outside, to give them an option of investing locally, hence minimizing the GDP exodus that happens because of limited local investment opportunities,” PIF said in a statement.
The Kingdom has established a special authority to oversee Neom.
Wes Schwalje, COO of Dubai-based research and strategy center Tahseen Consulting, said: “Neom is bringing the same level of disruption to urban planning and economic development as Uber has brought to the technology sector. Investment is strongly influenced by stability, openness, and institutional quality.
“With the announcement of Neom, the Public Investment Fund and Saudi Arabia is communicating to the world that the Kingdom is open for business.”


Dubai counts on pent-up demand for tourism return

Updated 11 July 2020

Dubai counts on pent-up demand for tourism return

DUBAI: After a painful four-month tourism shutdown that ended this week, Dubai is betting pent-up demand will see the industry quickly bounce back, billing itself as a safe destination with the resources to ward off coronavirus.

The emirate, which had more than 16.7 million visitors last year, opened its doors to tourists despite global travel restrictions and the onset of the scorching Gulf summer in the hopes the sector will reboot before high season begins in the last quarter of 2020.

Embarking from Emirates flights, where cabin crew work in gowns and face shields, the first visitors arrived on Tuesday to be greeted by temperature checks and nasal swabs, in a city better known for skyscrapers, luxury resorts and over-the-top attractions.

Tourism chief Helal Al-Marri said that people may still be reluctant to travel right now, but that data shows they are already looking at destinations and preparing to come out of their shells.

“When you look at the indicators, and who is trying to buy travel, 10 weeks ago, six weeks ago and today look extremely different,” he said in an interview.

“People were worried (but) people today are really searching heavily for their next holiday and that is a very positive sign and I see a very strong comeback.”

The crisis crushed Dubai’s goal to push arrivals to 20 million this year and forced flag carrier Emirates, the largest airline in the Middle East, to cut its sprawling network and lay off an undisclosed number of staff.

But Al-Marri, director-general of Dubai’s Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing, said that unlike the gloom after the 2008 global financial crisis, the downturn is a one-off “shock event.”

“Once we do get to the other side, as we start to talk about next year and later on, we see very much a quick uptick. Because once things normalize, people will go back to travel again,” he said.

The reopening comes as the UAE battles stubbornly high coronavirus infection rates that have climbed to more than 53,500 with 328 deaths.

And as swathes of the world emerge from lockdown, for many travelers their holiday wish lists have shifted from free breakfasts and room upgrades to more pressing issues like hotel sanitation and hospital capacity.

With its advanced medical facilities and infrastructure, Dubai is betting it will be an attractive option for tourists.

“The first thing I’m thinking is — how is the health-care system, do they have it under control? Do I trust the government there?” Al-Marri said. “Yes they expect the airline to have precautionary measures, they expect it at the airport. But are they going to a city where everything from the taxi, to the restaurant, to the mall, to the beach has these measures in place?”

Tourists arriving in Dubai are required to present a negative test result taken within four days of the flight. If not, they can take the test on arrival, but must self-isolate until they receive the all-clear.

While social distancing and face masks are widely enforced, many restaurants and attractions have reopened with business as usual, even if wait staff wear protective gear and menus have been replaced with QR codes.

“When it comes to Dubai, I think it’s really great to see the fun returning to the city. As you’ve seen, everything’s opened up,” Al-Marri said.