JEDDAH: Almost 900 craftsmen have qualified under a Saudi program that is turning traditional and contemporary handicrafts into a growing money-spinner for the Kingdom.
Skilled artisans have produced 132 designs and 4,400 craft items for Saudi hotels and airlines as part of the national handicrafts program (Bare’), introduced by the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage to develop the craft sector.
As part of the commission’s strategy, handicrafts will contribute to the Kingdom’s economy and create jobs focusing on a wide range of artisanal skills.
Under the program, three new Sougha outlets were opened across the Kingdom, each selling a mix of traditional and sophisticated craft products.
A total of 5,000 craftsmen cards were issued — a 15 percent increase on last year — and cooperation agreements were signed with six new customers, including hotels, companies and government ministries.
The program also registered 25 handicrafts in the Craft Atlas, a global platform for exploring craft techniques and makers.
Meanwhile, a cooperation agreement with the human resources development fund Hadaf will encourage Saudi craftsmen to work in the private sector.
A second agreement with the Social Development Bank will allow artisans to benefit from World Bank funding for small- and medium-sized establishment and start-ups, enabling them to play a growing role in the Kingdom’s economy.
The Bare’ program’s 17 handicraft centers market the work of the craftsmen, and provide an archive for heritage and contemporary products.