Fraternal Saudi-Omani ties in focus as Muscat prepares to welcome Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman

Fraternal Saudi-Omani ties in focus as Muscat prepares to welcome Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s visit will build on talks that Oman’s Sultan Haitham bin Tariq had with King Salman during his visit to the Kingdom earlier this year. (Reuters)
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Updated 06 December 2021

Fraternal Saudi-Omani ties in focus as Muscat prepares to welcome Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman

Fraternal Saudi-Omani ties in focus as Muscat prepares to welcome Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman
  • Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s visit to build on talks Sultan Haitham held with King Salman in July
  • Visit described as a reflection of ‘time-honored’ ties between two Gulf countries bound by bonds of history

RIYADH: Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s visit to Oman, the first stop in a tour of Gulf states, is expected to build on the talks that Oman’s Sultan Haitham bin Tariq held with King Salman during his visit to the Kingdom in July.

On the agenda are issues of mutual concern and ways to promote the interests of the Kingdom and Oman as well as “fulfill the aspirations and hopes” of their peoples.

The Omani news agency ONA described the visit as a reflection of the “time-honored and historical” ties between the two Gulf countries.

For over half a century, Saudi-Omani relations have been characterized by cooperation, mutual respect and understanding on various regional and international issues.

Likewise, connections at the individual level run deep thanks to bonds of history, shared Arab customs and traditions, and a common Gulf Arab heritage.




Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman will visit Oman during his tour of the Gulf. (SPA)

The two countries coordinate their actions under the umbrella of the Gulf Cooperation Council in accordance with the bloc’s common visions and strategic goals, with a view to achieving integration between member states in different fields.

A similar cooperative spirit informs their roles at the Arab League, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, the UN and various other international bodies.

Sultan Haitham’s visit to Saudi Arabia produced promises of cooperation in different fields, notably real estate development, tourism, petrochemicals, manufacturing industries, logistics, information technology and banking systems. Also on the agenda was a project to establish an industrial zone in the Special Economic Zone in Duqm.

A memorandum establishing a coordination council was signed by the two countries, with the aim of ensuring continued consultation and coordination in matters of common interest in all fields. A separate agreement was signed to boost government and private sector trade and investment as well as cooperation in the fields of environmental and food security.




The crown prince’s trip is set to build on the talks that Oman’s Sultan Haitham bin Tariq held with King Salman in July. (AFP)

According to a joint statement, the two sides also agreed to expedite the opening of their border crossings to ease the movement of people and goods to “integrate supply chains in order to achieve the desired economic integration.”

They further welcomed the “effective communication” between ministers of the two countries and directed them to work toward concluding a number of cooperation agreements.

“Saudi Arabia is the largest economy in the Arab world and its leading economic engine, home to a quarter of the world’s petroleum reserves and the largest free market in the Middle East and North Africa region. It’s a key, valued trading partner of Oman,” Sayyid Faisal bin Turki Al-Said, Oman’s ambassador to Saudi Arabia, told Arab News on the eve of Sultan Haitham’s visit.

INNUMBERS

• SR 24bn ($6.4bn) total Saudi investments in Oman

• SR4bn total Omani investments in KSA

• SR2bn Saudi-Omani trade volume in first quarter of 2021

Ties between Oman and Saudi Arabia have remained strong in part thanks to regular bilateral meetings and shuttle diplomacy, a tradition established after the signing of the March 1990 agreement that finally delineated their 658 km border.

The border agreement signed at Hafr Al-Batin in Saudi Arabia solidified the relationship, sweeping away territorial disputes of the past and giving both states equal access to the area’s bountiful water resources.

Over the decades that followed, relations have grown from strength to strength, yielding ambitious economic partnerships and joint action on the GCC, which has seen a merging of strategic aims and a shared vision for economic diversification.

In 2006, Saudi Arabia and Oman agreed to open a new border crossing to help facilitate the expansion of trade.

Their engineers teamed up to build a Saudi-funded highway through Rub Al-Khali (the Empty Quarter), connecting Al-Ahsa in the Kingdom’s Eastern Province to Ibri in Oman, shaving some 16 hours off the journey time between the two countries.

Officials expect the road to be opened to civil and commercial traffic by the end of this year, which will potentially inaugurate a new era of business activities.

Once open, the new highway will cut the cost of import-export logistics, especially for merchants operating out of Oman’s ports of Sohar and Duqm, not to mention the potential boost to tourism — a sector both countries are keen to expand.

In particular, the Omani side hopes the new road — and perhaps even a future rail link — will encourage more joint investments at the Sohar Industrial Estate and the Special Economic Zone in Duqm.




Sultan Haitham’s visit to Saudi Arabia produced promises of cooperation in different fields. (AFP)

Other partnerships include the development of Khazaen Economic City, the Salalah 2 gas-fired power station and the Salalah desalination plant. Saudi Arabia is also a big importer of Omani fish, making the development of the sultanate’s fisheries a matter of tremendous common interest.

Another core area of cooperation is the environment, with the two states pulling together to cut carbon emissions by 60 percent, plant billions of trees, and make the Saudi and Middle East Green initiatives a reality.

Sultan Haitham has welcomed the initiatives in previous talks with the Saudi crown prince. The two countries have also begun sharing expertise in industrial development, city planning and mineral extraction, with ministerial delegations recently meeting via video link to discuss new collaborations.




The crown prince’s visit honors the historical ties between the two Gulf countries. (SPA)

High-level officials and delegations have made reciprocal visits in recent months with the aim of integrating Oman’s Vision 2040 and Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 — two development and economic diversification agendas designed to create vibrant, modern economies that offer young citizens exciting new career paths and improve the overall quality of life.

Among a long list of Saudi businesses looking for investment opportunities in Oman are Al Sayadiyah United Co., which has been operating for about 40 years, trading in fish and seafood items originating in different GCC countries.

In comments to Arab News in September, Marwan Raffa, CEO of Al Sayadiyah, said he expected a very good experience in trade operations with Oman and was in touch with his Omani counterparts to expand business operations there.

Commenting on Saudi Arabia’s drive to deepen ties with Oman, he said: “Good relationships open up more opportunities.”


King Salman Global Academy for Arabic Language implements project to strengthen language policies

King Salman Global Academy for Arabic Language implements project to strengthen language policies
Updated 52 min 17 sec ago

King Salman Global Academy for Arabic Language implements project to strengthen language policies

King Salman Global Academy for Arabic Language implements project to strengthen language policies
  • The project aims to train more than 1,000 employees in 20 ministries and government agencies, through 40 training courses

RIYADH: The King Salman Global Academy for Arabic Language has implemented a draft language policy guide for Saudi government institutions.
The move aims to activate decisions related to the language within government bodies, and to develop awareness among workers of the importance of linguistics and its connection to decisions and regulations at various levels.
It also aims to provide procedural steps and an executive working guide that preserves the Arabic language’s position in government institutions, the academy said in a statement.
The project aligns with the academy’s strategic goals, preserving the integrity of Arabic and supporting it verbally and in writing, and developing policies, strategies, plans and programs.
It includes a review of the Saudi language policy, based on various regulations and legislation, and also includes an executive guide for language editing in government institutions.
The project is one of the initiatives of the Human Capacity Development Program, one of the programs of Vision 2030, and aims to train more than a thousand employees in 20 ministries and government agencies, through 40 training courses, focused on two main topics: Writing skills for administrators and the basic rules of Arabic writing.
The two topics were chosen based on a study of specific needs in functional language situations.
The first training courses for the project have already begun, and several were held in coordination with the ministries of culture, education, and Islamic affairs. Courses last for two days, with an average of eight training hours.


Investor interest in Saudi hotel sector is growing, so why are there so few rooms outside cities?

 According to Thamer Alrajeeb, the cornerstone of the development of hotel investment in Saudi Arabia’s various regions lies in facilitating the financing process for investors in the sector. (Supplied)
According to Thamer Alrajeeb, the cornerstone of the development of hotel investment in Saudi Arabia’s various regions lies in facilitating the financing process for investors in the sector. (Supplied)
Updated 16 January 2022

Investor interest in Saudi hotel sector is growing, so why are there so few rooms outside cities?

 According to Thamer Alrajeeb, the cornerstone of the development of hotel investment in Saudi Arabia’s various regions lies in facilitating the financing process for investors in the sector. (Supplied)
  • Hotel industry experts shed light on planning strategies, expansion portfolios and other challenges in the sector

RIYADH: In recent years, there has been a remarkable increase in the number of businesses whose owners are interested in investing in the hotel sector in Saudi Arabia. Yet at the same time, many observers continue to wonder why there are still so few hotels outside of the Kingdom’s major cities.

Amir Lababedi, Hilton’s managing director of development in the Middle East and North Africa, said: “Saudi Arabia represents our largest development pipeline in the Middle East, with plans to expand our presence to more than 75 hotels in the coming years.
“We plan to expand in locations across major primary and secondary cities across Saudi Arabia. We see potential for our mid-market Hampton by Hilton and Hilton Garden Inn brands, as well as for DoubleTree by Hilton and our lifestyle brand, Canopy by Hilton.”
Meanwhile, Radisson Hotel Group announced this week that it plans to expand its operations in Saudi Arabia and increase its investment portfolio in the Middle East to approximately half of its total investments by 2026.

There is a big demand for hotels classified as three or four stars. The local population, as well as visitors — pilgrims, tourists, and businessmen — prefers three- or four-star hotels as these are available all around and are very affordable for the general public. Commercially, their operating cost is lower and thus they generate more revenue than a five-star hotel.

Saleh Al-Habib, Executive director, Jiwar Real Estate Development

According to Saudi Minister of Tourism Ahmed Al-Khateeb: “Radisson Hotel Group’s commitment to developing new hotels in the Kingdom and opening a regional office in Riyadh is an effective contribution to strengthening the Kingdom’s steps to achieve its goal of receiving 100 million visitors by 2030.”
Mahmoud Al-Saeed, the general manager of Pereira Resorts in the Eastern Province, which is managed by Boudl Hotels and Resorts, said the company aims to cater to all sections of society.
“Given that a large segment of society prefers three-star hotels for their quality and reasonable prices, the company has created a chain of Aber hotels,” he said. “It launched the brand in 2018 to meet the needs of many with a group of modern hotels, in terms of design and concept, at affordable prices while ensuring high quality and professionalism in providing services.”

Dr. Saleh Al-Habib, executive director of Jiwar Real Estate Development

The three-star Aber hotels are “situated between hotel apartments and four-star hotels,” according to Al-Saeed. “The economic concept that Boudl is keen to present with this group of hotels has become an important matter for many travelers and those looking for a change in the usual lifestyle,” he added.
Boudl also owns the four-star Pereira hotels and the five-star Narcissus. Al-Saeed said the company has plans for expansion in major cities, and to increase the number of three-star hotels in a number of Saudi cities. These hotels are experiencing an influx of tourists from inside and outside the country, he added.
Al-Saeed, who has worked in the industry for nearly two decades, said that hotels currently face a number of challenges, particularly “in light of the precautions against COVID-19. These include the postponement of many events which usually take place in hotels and the cancellation of reservations for halls used for celebrations or official meetings, due to the coronavirus and its accompanying problems.”
He added that the authorities in Saudi Arabia are aware of the issues and are working to develop the hotel sector.

 Fadil Munakeal, manager of Jabal Omar Jumeirah in Makkah

Thamer Alrajeeb, a former member of the Riyadh Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s Tourism Accommodation Committee, said investment in the tourism sector in major cities is encouraging, particularly in Riyadh in support of the Saudi Entertainment Authority initiatives. It is not profitable in other cities, however, where operations are seasonal during a period of a few months each year, usually coinciding with school holidays or good weather.
“For the rest of the year, operation is a loss for the investor,” he said.

FASTFACT

Radisson Hotel Group announced this week that it plans to expand its operations in Saudi Arabia and increase its investment portfolio in the Middle East to approximately half of its total investments by 2026.

Alrajeeb described investing in hotels other than five-star establishments as “feasible.” He said the lower operational costs and prices are affordable to a wider range of guests but added that “many of the Ministry of Tourism’s requirements burden investors.”
He said it is possible to meet the needs of visitors with average levels of financial solvency, particularly outside the three cities of Riyadh, Jeddah, and Dammam. This can be done by investing in hotel suites in particular, which are characterized by low startup costs, “allowing for their rental prices to be more commensurate with the solvency of a wide range of travelers.”
The cornerstone of the development of hotel investment in Saudi Arabia’s various regions lies in facilitating the financing process for investors in the sector while fulfilling the Ministry of Tourism’s requirements, Alrajeeb said, adding that the focus should be on efforts that contribute to raising quality in the sector and meeting the needs of customers.
Fadil Munakeal, manager of the Jabal Omar Jumeirah hotel in Makkah, stressed the importance of providing products and services that correspond to a hotel’s star rating, which he said reflects positively on investment in the sector. He urged the Ministry of Tourism to continue its supervision and follow up efforts to achieve reliability in the sector and improve the image and perception of all types of hotels.
Munakeal, who is also a member of the Hotels Committee of the Makkah Chamber of Commerce and Industry, urged the owners of less expensive establishments, particularly in the three-star and lower categories, to invest in modern marketing techniques and direct them at particular target groups. They must also develop products and services that meet the needs of these target audiences, he added.
He said many domestic tourists, particularly families, prefer to stay in hotel apartments because they have a negative perception of some hotels with fewer than four stars.
Saleh Al-Habib, executive director of Jiwar Real Estate Development, said: “There is a big demand for hotels classified as three or four stars. The local population, as well as visitors — pilgrims, tourists, and businessmen — prefers three- or four-star hotels as these are available all around and are very affordable for the general public.
“Commercially, their operating cost is lower and thus they generate more revenue than a five-star hotel.
“This is a popular choice for almost all classes of society, especially the middle and lower-middle classes. The availability of such hotels and semi-luxurious apartments is numerous. With affordable tariffs, they meet the needs of families, business travelers, as well as those seeking leisure.”
Al-Habib, who is also a member of the Saudi Association for Tourist Accommodation Facilities, said that both locals and expatriates are interested in establishing hotels and furnished apartments in areas such as Abha, Al-Baha, Tabuk, Hafar Al-Batin, Al-Majma’ah and Al-Kharj.
“These interested entrepreneurs are working closely with the National Tourism Fund,” he added.


Saudi Arabia’s KAUST launches Science Festival at Thuwal Beach

Al-Khawarizmi Building in the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology campus, Thuwal, Saudi Arabia. (Shutterstock)
Al-Khawarizmi Building in the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology campus, Thuwal, Saudi Arabia. (Shutterstock)
Updated 17 January 2022

Saudi Arabia’s KAUST launches Science Festival at Thuwal Beach

Al-Khawarizmi Building in the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology campus, Thuwal, Saudi Arabia. (Shutterstock)
  • The festival includes an exhibition on the Red Sea coast to preview the area’s project to change the rules of sustainable tourism

JEDDAH: King Abdullah University of Science and Technology has launched its annual Science Festival for 2022, which will be held Jan. 20-21.

The festival, which will be held at Thuwal Beach in Jeddah, aims to inspire young talents in Saudi Arabia, the Middle East and North Africa region.

KAUST President Tony Chan said that the world is moving towards innovation as a basis for discovery and invention, and that there is an urgent need for young people to confront the most essential problems in global societies and participate in solving them.

He pointed out that KAUST has become prominent in science and technology in Saudi Arabia, quickly becoming an international platform to inspire and nurture young scientific minds to unleash the power of science and achieve the UN’s sustainable development goals.

“This is a very important occasion in the history of our events, as we are moving the site for the first time outside the walls of KAUST and expanding the program of events to allow the potential of our nation’s youth to move towards great scientific horizons and put Saudi Arabia on the map of innovation, technology and youth-led initiatives,” he said.

Chan stated that this year’s festival will feature a schedule including a variety of science fairs, daily evening science shows, science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics challenges for children, and science projects presented by KAUST students.

The festival also includes an exhibition on the Red Sea coast to preview the area’s project to change the rules of sustainable tourism.

The exhibition will feature whale sharks, shura trees, coral reefs, and marine simulation ponds. Other events will showcase some of the components currently available at KAUST, including the Core Lab, the Start-Up fair, the Museum of Failed Scientific Attempts, and interactive robots that will roam throughout the site.

Food and entertainment kiosks will be available throughout the festival period.

 


Saudi finance minister meets top EU official in Riyadh

Mohammed Al-Jadaan meets with Johannes Hahn in Riyadh. (Supplied)
Mohammed Al-Jadaan meets with Johannes Hahn in Riyadh. (Supplied)
Updated 17 January 2022

Saudi finance minister meets top EU official in Riyadh

Mohammed Al-Jadaan meets with Johannes Hahn in Riyadh. (Supplied)
  • They discussed enhancing financial cooperation between Saudi Arabia and the EU

RIYADH: Saudi Finance Minister Mohammed Al-Jadaan met European Commissioner for Budget and Administration Johannes Hahn at the ministry’s headquarters in Riyadh on Sunday.
During the meeting, they discussed enhancing financial cooperation between Saudi Arabia and the European Commission and the EU’s economic recovery plans and available investment opportunities.
The meeting was attended by a number of senior officials from the Ministry of Finance and the European Commission.

 


Saudi Arabia rolls out aid in Yemen, Afghanistan

The center distributed on Saturday 17 tons of aid. (SPA)
The center distributed on Saturday 17 tons of aid. (SPA)
Updated 17 January 2022

Saudi Arabia rolls out aid in Yemen, Afghanistan

The center distributed on Saturday 17 tons of aid. (SPA)
  • The project aims to distribute about 192,000 food baskets weighing more than 20,000 tons to impoverished families across 15 Yemeni governorates

HAJJAH: King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center mobile medical clinics have continued providing treatment services at the Waalan camp for displaced people in Yemen’s Hajjah Governorate.

In one week, clinics received 136 people with various health conditions. They were provided with medical services.

KSrelief also distributed more than 63 tons of food baskets in the Al-Mudhaffar district of Taiz Governorate, helping 4,039 people.

The project aims to distribute about 192,000 food baskets weighing more than 20,000 tons to impoverished families across 15 Yemeni governorates.

KSRelief is also distributing food and provide shelter to needy families in Afghanistan as part of the Saudi relief airlift dispatched by the center to support the Afghan people.

The center distributed on Saturday 17 tons of aid. It included 250 food baskets, 500 flour bags, 250 winter bags and 250 blankets in the Qala-e-Fathullah district of Kabul, helping 250 families.