‘Incredible’ destination Saudi Arabia must develop tourism infrastructure, global travel expert says

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Landscapoe shot is between Wadi Al Dawasir and Haradh in Saudi Arabia. (AFP/File photo)
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Nigel David said there needs to be a follow up to the campaign that was launched last year under the slogan  “Where In The World”. (AN photo)
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Updated 17 February 2020

‘Incredible’ destination Saudi Arabia must develop tourism infrastructure, global travel expert says

  • Saudi Arabia shall overcome perception that "it is just a destination for religious tourism," expert says

LONDON: Saudi Arabia must develop its infrastructure for tourists and offer a variety of activities for them to undertake as the Kingdom seeks to become a leading global travel destination, a travel and tourism expert said Wednesday.

The Kingdom has made huge strides in diversifying its economy by launching tourist visas that allow residents of 49 countries to obtain visas online or on arrival, the regional director for the Middle East at the World Travel and Tourism Council Nigel David said. This is the first step towards the Kingdom’s target of growing tourism from around 3 percent to 10 percent of Saudi Arabia’s gross domestic product by 2030, he added.

Speaking to Arab News at a travel and tourism event at the Arab-British Chamber of Commerce (ABCC) in London, David said there needs to be a follow up to the campaign that was launched last year under the slogan  “Where In The World” and featured several shots of Saudi landmarks and natural wonders, prompting viewers to guess where they might be.

“There is a certain perception which the Kingdom needs to overcome; that it is just a destination for religious tourism and that it’s not a safe place to go. It is the opposite of all those things. 

The “Where in the World” campaign started that process but there now needs to be a follow up campaign about how easy it is to get a visa and more specifically around the opportunities for tourists when they’re there and what they can do. That’s very important and that’s where the biggest challenges lie,” David said at the “Travel and Tourism 2020: A strategy for development?” event.

Although there are challenges to achieving Vision 2030’s aim of being a top five country in terms of international arrivals with 75 million international visitors and employing a million people directly in the tourism industry, there is a “willingness and desire” in the Kingdom to develop.

Speaking about Vision 2030, Saudi Arabia’s sweeping program of economic and cultural reforms, David said it is ambitious and it is “very significant that Saudi Arabia has a leadership that recognizes the role that travel tourism can play… It is an ambitious strategy, it’s incredible. Just the scale of what they’re trying to do with the giga projects, whether that’s NEOM or the Red Sea project, the clarity of the vision and the ambition is absolutely incredible.”

He added that there was a high awareness of the vision in Saudi Arabia and that “it’s not just the top, it is going right down to the grassroots, and the local population is excited and up for this and they are looking forward to it.”

Locations such as AlUla, NEOM, and the Red Sea are all being touted as potential tourist destinations, with many other areas of the country preparing to receive visitors as well. 

The Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage is putting on 11 different tourist seasons around the year across the Kingdom. They include the Riyadh Season, AlUla season - which features the Winter at Tantora Festival - and Ad Diriyah Season.

“Saudi Arabia has this incredible culture and heritage and it’s a beautiful country. The people are amazing and it’s the perfect timing now to open their doors and hearts to the world to invite it in. My experience is that they are doing that and they are doing it very well,” David said.


Investors, scientists urge IEA to take bolder climate stance

Updated 30 May 2020

Investors, scientists urge IEA to take bolder climate stance

  • The energy agency’s head is under pressure to align its policies with the 2015 Paris accord goals

LONDON: Fatih Birol, the head of the International Energy Agency (IEA), faced renewed calls to take a bolder stance on climate change on Friday from investors concerned the organization’s reports enable damaging levels of investment in fossil fuels.

In an open letter, investor groups said an IEA report on options for green economic recoveries from the coronavirus pandemic, due out in June, should be aligned with the 2015 Paris accord goal of capping the rise in global temperatures at 1.5C.

The more than 60 signatories included the Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change, whose members have €30 trillion ($33.42 trillion) of assets under management, scientists and advocacy group Oil Change International.

“Bold, not incremental, action is required,” the letter said.

The Paris-based IEA said it appreciated feedback and would bear the letter’s suggestions in mind. It also said it had been recognized for leading calls on governments to put clean energy at the heart of their economic stimulus packages.

“We have backed up that call with a wide range of analysis, policy recommendations and high-level events with government ministers, CEOs, leading investors and thought leaders,” the IEA said.

Birol has faced mounting pressure in the past year from critics who say oil, gas and coal companies use the IEA’s flagship World Energy Outlook (WEO) annual report to justify further investment — undermining the Paris goals.

Birol has dismissed the criticism, saying the WEO helps governments understand the potential climate implications of their energy policies, and downplaying its influence on investment decisions.

FASTFACT

1.5°C

The 2015 Paris accord aims to cap the rise in global temperatures at 1.5C.

But campaigners want Birol to overhaul the WEO to chart a more reliable 1.5C path. The world is on track for more than double that level of heating, which would render the planet increasingly uninhabitable, scientists say.

The joint letter followed similar demands last year, and was published by Mission 2020, an initiative backed by former UN climate chief Christiana Figueres.