Security, strategic ties top agenda at 42nd GCC summit in Riyadh

Gulf leaders arrived in Riyadh on Tuesday for the 42nd Gulf Cooperation Council summit. (SPA)
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Gulf leaders arrived in Riyadh on Tuesday for the 42nd Gulf Cooperation Council summit. (SPA)
Gulf leaders arrived in Riyadh on Tuesday for the 42nd Gulf Cooperation Council summit. (SPA)
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Gulf leaders arrived in Riyadh on Tuesday for the 42nd Gulf Cooperation Council summit. (SPA)
Gulf leaders arrived in Riyadh on Tuesday for the 42nd Gulf Cooperation Council summit. (SPA)
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Gulf leaders arrived in Riyadh on Tuesday for the 42nd Gulf Cooperation Council summit. (SPA)
Gulf leaders arrived in Riyadh on Tuesday for the 42nd Gulf Cooperation Council summit. (SPA)
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Gulf leaders arrived in Riyadh on Tuesday for the 42nd Gulf Cooperation Council summit. (SPA)
Gulf leaders arrived in Riyadh on Tuesday for the 42nd Gulf Cooperation Council summit. (SPA)
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Gulf leaders arrived in Riyadh on Tuesday for the 42nd Gulf Cooperation Council summit. (SPA)
Gulf leaders arrived in Riyadh on Tuesday for the 42nd Gulf Cooperation Council summit. (SPA)
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Gulf leaders arrived in Riyadh on Tuesday for the 42nd Gulf Cooperation Council summit. (SPA)
Gulf leaders arrived in Riyadh on Tuesday for the 42nd Gulf Cooperation Council summit. (SPA)
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Gulf leaders arrived in Riyadh on Tuesday for the 42nd Gulf Cooperation Council summit. (SPA)
Gulf leaders arrived in Riyadh on Tuesday for the 42nd Gulf Cooperation Council summit. (SPA)
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Gulf leaders arrived in Riyadh on Tuesday for the 42nd Gulf Cooperation Council summit. (SPA)
Gulf leaders arrived in Riyadh on Tuesday for the 42nd Gulf Cooperation Council summit. (SPA)
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Gulf leaders arrived in Riyadh on Tuesday for the 42nd Gulf Cooperation Council summit. (SPA)
Gulf leaders arrived in Riyadh on Tuesday for the 42nd Gulf Cooperation Council summit. (SPA)
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Gulf leaders arrived in Riyadh on Tuesday for the 42nd Gulf Cooperation Council summit. (SPA)
Gulf leaders arrived in Riyadh on Tuesday for the 42nd Gulf Cooperation Council summit. (SPA)
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Gulf leaders arrived in Riyadh on Tuesday for the 42nd Gulf Cooperation Council summit. (SPA)
Gulf leaders arrived in Riyadh on Tuesday for the 42nd Gulf Cooperation Council summit. (SPA)
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Gulf leaders arrived in Riyadh on Tuesday for the 42nd Gulf Cooperation Council summit. (SPA)
Gulf leaders arrived in Riyadh on Tuesday for the 42nd Gulf Cooperation Council summit. (SPA)
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Gulf leaders arrived in Riyadh on Tuesday for the 42nd Gulf Cooperation Council summit. (SPA)
Gulf leaders arrived in Riyadh on Tuesday for the 42nd Gulf Cooperation Council summit. (SPA)
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Gulf leaders arrived in Riyadh on Tuesday for the 42nd Gulf Cooperation Council summit. (SPA)
Gulf leaders arrived in Riyadh on Tuesday for the 42nd Gulf Cooperation Council summit. (SPA)
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Gulf leaders arrived in Riyadh on Tuesday for the 42nd Gulf Cooperation Council summit. (SPA)
Gulf leaders arrived in Riyadh on Tuesday for the 42nd Gulf Cooperation Council summit. (SPA)
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Gulf leaders arrived in Riyadh on Tuesday for the 42nd Gulf Cooperation Council summit. (SPA)
Gulf leaders arrived in Riyadh on Tuesday for the 42nd Gulf Cooperation Council summit. (SPA)
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Gulf leaders arrived in Riyadh on Tuesday for the 42nd Gulf Cooperation Council summit. (SPA)
Gulf leaders arrived in Riyadh on Tuesday for the 42nd Gulf Cooperation Council summit. (SPA)
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Gulf leaders arrived in Riyadh on Tuesday for the 42nd Gulf Cooperation Council summit. (SPA)
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman during the 42nd GCC Summit meeting in Riyadh. (SPA)
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Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman during the 42nd GCC Summit meeting in Riyadh. (SPA)
Gulf leaders arrived in Riyadh on Tuesday for the 42nd Gulf Cooperation Council summit. (SPA)
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Gulf leaders arrived in Riyadh on Tuesday for the 42nd Gulf Cooperation Council summit. (SPA)
Gulf leaders arrived in Riyadh on Tuesday for the 42nd Gulf Cooperation Council summit. (SPA)
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Gulf leaders arrived in Riyadh on Tuesday for the 42nd Gulf Cooperation Council summit. (SPA)
Gulf leaders arrived in Riyadh on Tuesday for the 42nd Gulf Cooperation Council summit. (SPA)
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Gulf leaders arrived in Riyadh on Tuesday for the 42nd Gulf Cooperation Council summit. (SPA)
Gulf leaders arrived in Riyadh on Tuesday for the 42nd Gulf Cooperation Council summit. (SPA)
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Gulf leaders arrived in Riyadh on Tuesday for the 42nd Gulf Cooperation Council summit. (SPA)
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Updated 15 December 2021

Security, strategic ties top agenda at 42nd GCC summit in Riyadh

Security, strategic ties top agenda at 42nd GCC summit in Riyadh
  • The GCC maintains security and stability in Gulf region while supporting and serving Arab and Islamic causes 
  • Ahead of the summit, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman visited all member states, strengthening ties 

RIYADH: Speaking at the conclusion of the 42nd GCC Summit on Tuesday, Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said the alliance would continue to play a role in strengthening security and stability in the Middle East region.

“We are looking forward today to building a prosperous economic bloc, and this requires creating a stimulating environment that depends on diversifying sources of income,” the crown prince said.

The final communique, read by Nayef Al-Hajraf, the GCC general-secretary, said further teamwork would be necessary to meet future challenges and highlighted the importance of strengthening opportunities for women and young people and for digital transformation in the GCC countries.

“The leaders agreed on principles and policies to develop strategic cooperation and economic development integration among the GCC states, and to achieve the aspirations of their citizens,” Al-Hajraf said.

Regional security and strategic relationships were uppermost in the minds of Gulf leaders as they completed last-minute preparations for the 42nd annual GCC summit, chaired by King Salman in the Saudi capital on Dec. 14.

Saudi Arabia presided over the summit, which came in the wake of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s tour of the Gulf states last week. Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan said earlier that the summit comes at a delicate and sensitive time. The region’s security will be a key item on the agenda.

The summit is held every year to discuss integration and interdependence between the Gulf states in the economic, commercial, educational and cultural fields to enhance their development.

On Feb. 9, 1981, during the first session of the GCC summit, foreign ministers signed a document establishing the Gulf Cooperation Council, which included six Gulf states — Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman and the UAE. It is considered one of the most successful regional groupings focusing on future goals.




Six gulf countries, including Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and the UAE, formed the GCC in 1981 to strengthen political and economic ties and common security through diplomatic cooperation. (Credit: Deutsch Federal Foreign Office)

“The GCC was established to promote security, stability, development, prosperity and wellbeing for the citizens of the Gulf countries. They are our basic wealth, and through them, they achieve our visions and hopes,” said King Salman.

In numbers, the GCC has managed to unify 68 Gulf laws and regulations, and 116 indicative Gulf laws and regulations. It has also established 42 joint Gulf institutions in technology and economic cooperation, and 26 Gulf organizations operating under the umbrella of the GCC. It has also agreed on 17 joint development agreements and strategies.

“Gulf countries always seek to enhance coordination and cooperation, and exchange experiences in all fields,” the Saudi Ambassador to Oman, Abdullah Al-Anzi, told Arab News. 

In the past 40 years, the GCC has held 41 annual summits, four exceptional summits, 17 consultative summits and five joint summits.

GCC countries are at the top of the list of the 30 safest countries in the world amid the global pandemic.

“What has been achieved throughout the history of the GCC gives us pride,” UAE President Shaikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al-Nahyan said.

“We believe that the affection and cooperation that unites our countries and peoples are enough to increase the solidity of the Gulf countries as one in a time that does not show mercy to the divided or the weak,” he added.

Social conditions have also received the attention of GCC leaders. During the 23rd GCC summit in Doha in 2002, leaders presented their views on empowering women in GCC countries, and confirming their economic, social and family roles.




The GCC established the Peninsula Shield Force in 1984 to deter and respond to aggression against member states. In 2011, it deployed 10,000 troops to Bahrain to contain an uprising and support the Bahraini leadership. (SPA)

Since the GCC’s establishment, it has achieved gains in various fields. Talks have focused on the need to enhance women’s participation, support their role, and enable them to participate effectively and influence society’s development, as well as be part of leadership positions and the decision-making process, emphasizing Islamic and Arab values and principles.

The GCC supported several activities in the cultural field that include visual arts, narration, poetry, cinema, theater, music, heritage and creativity.

In terms of political cooperation, the coordination of foreign policy is one of the essential aspects of the GCC’s work. This is based on several principles, including being a good neighbor; non-interference in internal affairs; mutual respect for the sovereignty, political independence and territorial integrity of states; and adopting the principle of peaceful dialogue as a means of settling disputes.

“The GCC, in light of the remarkable integration it has reached, is no longer a tool for enhancing the gains of our peoples only but has become a regional edifice that initiates the establishment of regional and international security and peace through its effective role in developing solutions and political initiatives for the countries of the region’s crises,” Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa has said.

Practically, it can be said that the GCC has managed to achieve many successes in foreign policy that contributed to maintaining security and stability in the Gulf region and supporting and serving Arab and Islamic causes.

Among the most important were the liberation of Kuwait, support for the Palestinian cause, as well as support for the stability and sovereignty of Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Lebanon and Libya.

Military cooperation between the Gulf countries has been characterized by intense work in building and developing defense and security forces. Cooperation has developed qualitatively and quantitatively since the formation of the council.

“We will continue with our brothers, the leaders of the GCC countries, to contribute to advancing the process of cooperation between our countries to achieve the hopes of our peoples, and to push the achievements of the GCC forward,” Sultan of Oman Haitham bin Tariq Al-Said said.




At the 1998 GCC summit in Abu Dhabi (L), members agreed to hold semi-annual consultative meetings between summits to further enhance cooperation. At a consultative meeting in Kuwait in 2004 (R), the interior ministers of all six states signed a counterterrorism pact to boost intelligence sharing and coordination between security agencies. (WAM/AFP)

The presence of joint military forces for the GCC states is one of the important foundations for establishing a joint defense system that aims to provide security to protect the GCC states, defend their independence, and protect their capabilities and gains.

In 1982, the Gulf states formed a joint military force, the Peninsula Shield Force, to deter and respond to military aggression against any GCC member countries.

Security cooperation during the course of the GCC has included the signing of many agreements, memoranda of understanding and cooperation, and letters of intent.

Several specialized committees and technical work teams have been formed in various fields of security coordination and cooperation, and many centers and missions have been established to support and enhance the process of Gulf security cooperation.

Unity is one of the main objectives of the GCC, and during the 41st summit (Sultan Qaboos and Sheikh Sabah Summit), the subject of common destiny was emphasized, with the signing of the AlUla declaration ending a Gulf dispute with Qatar. 

The AlUla declaration aims to enhance cohesion among member states, ensure the return of joint Gulf action to its normal course, and achieve the aspirations of the citizens of the GCC states in the face of any threat to any of the GCC states.

“The unity and integration of the GCC states, and the strengthening of consultation and cooperation among their leaders, are indispensable conditions for strengthening the security and stability of the region, as well as for achieving economic growth and cooperation in all fields, and this is the subject of the consensus of our peoples and society,” said Qatar Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani. 




In Saudi Arabia’s northwestern city of AlUla in Jan. 2021, GCC members signed a special declaration agreeing to mend relations with Qatar and committing to stronger security cooperation. (Supplied)

The AlUla summit is considered one of the important events in the history of the GCC, after the restoration of relations between the countries.

The declaration “strengthens the bonds of friendship and brotherhood among our countries and peoples to serve their aspirations,” Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said earlier.

“I hope that together we can support our joint Gulf and Arab action to preserve our gains and achieve the hopes and aspirations of our peoples. I pray to the Almighty Allah to preserve our homelands and achieve wellbeing for our peoples,” Kuwait Emir Sheikh Nawaf Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah said.  

Ahead of the 42nd GCC summit, the Saudi crown prince visited all five GCC allies in the past week, one of the most important visits to strengthen the ties between the Kingdom and the Gulf countries.


First for Saudi as domestic flight takes off with all-female crew

The number of Saudi female pilots has grown recently. (Supplied)
The number of Saudi female pilots has grown recently. (Supplied)
Updated 22 May 2022

First for Saudi as domestic flight takes off with all-female crew

The number of Saudi female pilots has grown recently. (Supplied)
  • Saudi women have proved themselves in many careers that men dominated for a long time including aviation-related positions

JEDDAH: Saudi low-cost airline flyadeal have announced the first domestic flight in the Kingdom with a fully female crew, most of them Saudis.

The announcement was made on the airline’s official Twitter account @flyadeal on Friday: “For the first time in Saudi aviation history! #flyadeal operated the first flight with an all-female crew, the majority of which are Saudis by the newest A320 aircraft. Flight 117, flew from #Riyadh to #Jeddah”

Saudi women have proved themselves in many careers that men dominated for a long time including aviation-related positions.

Flight 117, with a crew of seven, was co-piloted by Yara Jan, 23, who is also the youngest Saudi female pilot.

Jan told Arab News that she was extremely proud to be taking part in such a historic moment in aviation for Saudi women.

“As a Saudi woman trying to lead my country with a proud step it was a moment of pride and joy.”

Jan graduated from flight school in Florida, US, in 2019, and joined Flyadeal a year ago.

She said that being the co-pilot means assisting the pilot in many key role tasks such as navigation and completing many checklists.

Jan is aware of how important this is for young Saudi women.

“Although being a Saudi woman pilot is new, it is not impossible for our generation, especially with the backing that we are receiving from our beloved country and our respected leaders, who have supported me a lot to become the youngest female pilot in a Saudi airline. I will always be pleased to have the chance to make a positive change.”

The number of Saudi female pilots has grown recently. Three names stand out: Hanadi Zakaria Al-Hindi, the first female pilot to fly with a Saudi commercial pilot license; Rawia Al-Rifi the first to fly an Airbus A320 internationally as a civil aircraft from the UAE; and co-pilot Yasmin Al-Maimani, who was the first woman to co-pilot a commercial plane in the Kingdom.


City Walk zone a big hit among Jeddah Season visitors

Anime Village zone of City Walk is hosting more than 300 events, including concerts featuring Japanese bands. (Supplied)
Anime Village zone of City Walk is hosting more than 300 events, including concerts featuring Japanese bands. (Supplied)
Updated 22 May 2022

City Walk zone a big hit among Jeddah Season visitors

Anime Village zone of City Walk is hosting more than 300 events, including concerts featuring Japanese bands. (Supplied)
  • The Fashion Village carries international and local brands, as well as a live graffiti station where artists can paint on the wall together

JEDDAH: Jeddah Season visitors are excited for the City Walk zone, which is open with nine villages to suit all tastes and age groups: The Entry Village, Food Hall, Fashion Village, Splash, Horror Village, Jeddah Live, Adventure, Waterfall and the Anime Village.

The Entry Village and most of the City Walk are steampunk-themed.

The Food Hall offers international fare from Los Angeles-based Top Round and Italy-themed Prince of Venice Pasta and Pizza to Hong Kong cake shop Butter.

The Fashion Village carries international and local brands, as well as a live graffiti station where artists can paint on the wall together. It also features a DJ station with famous DJs playing music on a top-quality sound system for an unforgettable experience.

World-renowned artist Sara Shakeel’s work “Majlistic,” exhibiting historical Saudi culture and traditions, will also be featured at the Fashion Village.

Saudi visitor Abdullah Al-Thumani, 22, said that the zone was a completely new experience for the people of Jeddah.

“It’s a very special experience. I attended Riyadh Season, and this is really matching up to what I experienced in Riyadh,” he told Arab News.

“I liked the Fashion Village the most because they feature items you can’t find in regular stores,” he added.

Russian performer Uliana Averina said: “I came with a group from Russia, and we perform here at this festival in Jeddah. We are happy to be here and to participate in such a great event because everything here is really well done and gorgeous

“I see how happy people are here, and we like to interact with them,” she added.

The performer said she enjoyed the Saudi audience’s warm interaction.

“People here are very open, and they approach you first to interact with you. Even the kids come up to us and want to give us a high five. It’s so nice,” she said.

Splash is an aquatic village that has everything from water guns and a water drum show to rides and river rafting.

The Horror Village is for lovers of all things spooky. Brave visitors can enjoy abandoned houses, escape rooms, interactive ghost-themed exhibitions and more.

Jeddah Live takes visitors into the world of performances, with international and Arab theater shows such as “Bikhosoos Ba’ad Al-Nas” (“About Some People”), starring some of the Kingdom’s biggest television names, such as Nasser Al-Qassabi.

It also features a karaoke cube, the car and motorcycle show “Hot Wheels,” and Slime Planet for kids to enjoy.

Adventure is for adrenaline junkies, featuring a 150-meter-high hot air balloon ride, bungee jumping, a Ferris wheel and more, while the Anime Village is hosting more than 300 events, including concerts featuring Japanese bands.

The annual Jeddah Season festival aims to highlight the city’s rich heritage and culture through a total of 2,800 activities in nine zones over the event period.

Held under the slogan “Our Lovely Days,” the second Jeddah Season follows on from the success of Riyadh Season, which recorded more than 15 million visits over five months.

The festival season offers 70 interactive experiences, more than 60 recreational activities, seven Arab and two international plays, marine events, a circus, four international exhibitions and a host of other services for families.

 


Saudi ‘smart’ census ticks all the right boxes with online option

AN photoThe Kingdom’s fifth national census will provide detailed information about the population of the Kingdom. (AN photo)
The Kingdom’s fifth national census will provide detailed information about the population of the Kingdom. (AN photo)
Updated 22 May 2022

Saudi ‘smart’ census ticks all the right boxes with online option

AN photoThe Kingdom’s fifth national census will provide detailed information about the population of the Kingdom. (AN photo)
  • Official warns of fines for those who ignore ‘mandatory’ survey

RIYADH: Saudi citizens and residents will be able to take part in the Kingdom’s 2022 census via their computer or smartphone following the launch of an online questionnaire.

General Authority for Statistics official spokesperson Mohammed bin Saad Al-Dakhini said that the electronic option is designed to “smooth the way” and make it easier for people to respond to the survey from May 10-25.

Al-Dakhini said that participation in the census is mandatory, and those who disrupt census work or fail to give the required information will face financial penalties.

The GASTAT spokesperson said that taking part in the census is a “national duty and a responsibility shared by society,” adding that the 2022 survey will help prepare for a better future by providing reliable data for the development of public services, including education and health.

The Kingdom’s fifth national census will provide detailed information about the population of the Kingdom, including ages, nationalities and the distribution of income across regions, and the health status of people living in cities compared with those in rural areas.

HIGHLIGHT

General Authority for Statistics official spokesperson Mohammed bin Saad Al-Dakhini said that participation in the census is mandatory, and those who disrupt census work or fail to give the required information will face financial penalties.

Kiosks will be provided at 29 shopping centers across the Kingdom to offer help with the census questionnaire. More than 30,000 field staff are also on standby to visit people’s homes and collect the required information.

Census participants can also complete the form and have their queries answered through the unified toll-free number 9200 20081, as well as the authority’s accounts on social media channels.

Those wanting to complete the census form electronically through their smartphones or computers can visit the online portal via https://survey.saudicensus.sa/ar

The Saudi census is conducted every 10 years by GASTAT, with the 2022 survey playing an important role in the nation’s Vision 2030 development and diversification planning.

More than 25 government agencies, including the ministries of interior, health and education, and the Saudi Authority for Data and Artificial Intelligence, are involved in the census operation.

Preliminary estimates put the Saudi population in mid-2020 at more than 35 million. The previous census processes took place in 1974, 1992, 2004, and 2010.

The most recent survey showed that the country’s population had risen to more than 27 million, with almost 7 million people in the Makkah region, the most populous of the country’s 13 administrative regions.

Many countries conduct a comprehensive census every 10 years to obtain up-to-date, accurate and detailed data about the population, including its geographical distribution, and social and economic characteristics.

Accurate data allows officials, planners and politicians to allocate budgets more effectively and develop comprehensive strategies that can help keep pace with urban development. It also aids efforts to plan for future needs based on expected population growth, contribute to development plans and provide vital public services such as education, healthcare and transport.


How Saudi Arabia can become the vanguard of sustainable tourism

How Saudi Arabia can become the vanguard of sustainable tourism
Updated 22 May 2022

How Saudi Arabia can become the vanguard of sustainable tourism

How Saudi Arabia can become the vanguard of sustainable tourism
  • An agreement with Jamaica puts resilient tourism at the heart of the industry’s post-pandemic recovery
  • The pandemic highlighted the vulnerability of tourism not only to pandemics but also extreme weather

LONDON: Saudi Arabia is stepping up its efforts to become the vanguard of a UN pledge to develop a sustainable model of tourism after the sector’s levels of resilience were pushed to breaking point by the pandemic and new dire warnings of tourism’s environmental footprint emerged.

Addressing the UN General Assembly on May 6, Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Tourism Ahmed Al-Khateeb said lessons about tourism’s vulnerability to sudden, unexpected events must be taken from the pandemic — which cost the sector 62 million jobs worldwide — and changes made.

“COVID-19 highlighted the vulnerability of the sector, not only to pandemics but also to the effects of extreme weather, so addressing climate change must be at the heart of building a more resilient tourism, and there is no resilience without sustainability,” he said.

“We must work collaboratively, putting sustainable, resilient tourism at the heart of inclusive recovery. Only by doing these things together will we ensure better and more resilient futures for the millions around the world reliant on tourism.”

A partial view shows an ancient Nabataean carved tomb at the archaeological site of Hegra, near the northwestern Saudi city of AlUla. (Photo by 

The UN’s World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) welcomed the Saudi efforts, noting that the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 has already provided the blueprint for a “transformative and deeply ambitious” economic strategy, and could do the same for tourism.

A spokesperson for the UNWTO told Arab News: “This ambitious plan aims to reshape the social and cultural landscape, accelerating growth through strategic investment, new industries and leadership.

“It is an opportunity to bring Saudi Arabia’s heritage, culture and hospitality to the world; and deliver on climate and sustainability goals. Properly managed, tourism can play a key role in achieving this vision.”

Scientists have said CO2 emissions from tourism will increase by 25 percent by 2030 compared to 2016 levels, which if left unaddressed could be a bullet for the sector as visitors begin to factor in the impact, and morality, of climate change on their destination choices.

Signaling the Kingdom’s intent to become the shepherd to sustainability, Al-Khateeb and his Jamaican counterpart, Edmund Bartlett, signed earlier this month a memorandum of understanding to collaborate on developing sustainable and resilient tourism between the two countries.

Part of the agreement also included determination to not only embrace the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development but to lay out a blueprint that can be rolled out globally for a sustainable model of tourism.

The Taif rose season draws visitors from Saudi Arabia and beyond. (AN photo by Huda Bashatah)

Although firm details on the blueprint have yet to emerge, the UNWTO spokesperson noted that policymakers are “best placed” to play a central role so long as their policies include aims to reduce environmental impacts of consumption and production patterns.

“National tourism planning is a well-established practice among national authorities with national tourism policies covering on average a time frame of 10 years and addressing the same thematic areas across regions,” the spokesperson added.

“Aspects such as human resource development, investment, marketing and promotion, employment, product development and diversification have been factored into the policies as these are relevant aspects for the sustainable economic development of tourism.”

Jonathon Day, associate professor and Marriott School of Hospitality and Tourism Management graduate program director, applauded the Kingdom’s “ambition and commitment,” believing it could become a leader in sustainable development.

“Tourism developed sustainably has the potential to contribute substantially to sustainability challenges faced by Saudi Arabia and the world, and I’m sure that through tourism Saudi Arabia can join the destinations leading in sustainable development,” Day told Arab News.

“The Kingdom has the resources to invest in infrastructure to support sustainability goals and knows that tourism that doesn’t adopt the principles of sustainability can make sustainability issues worse. It requires commitment to achieve positive outcomes.”

Day is not alone in seeing Saudi Arabia’s financial resources as key in any effort it may make to lead the way in green tourism, with Prof. Willy Legrand of the International University of Applied Sciences believing it “would translate” in attracting talent and developing policy.

AlUla, home to Saudi Arabia’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site, is at the heart of the Kingdom’s tourism ambitions. (Courtesy: Royal Commission of AlUla)

“Not only this, the resources allow the country to develop and implement state of the art (existing) solutions as well as being a pipeline for the testing of new solutions to tackle some of the greater tourism challenges,” Legrand told Arab News.

Architect and sustainable tourism consultant Amine Ahlafi said that while Saudi Arabia had only recently opened for tourism more broadly, it was important to remember it had a rich history of religious tourism, and this was something it could learn from.

Anywhere from 2.5 million to 9 million pilgrims travel to the Kingdom each year, Ahlafi told Arab News that this results in around 15 million plastic cups being used to cater to the water needs of everyone traveling.

“You can of course use technology to recycle all the disposable cups, but sustainable tourism should be about finding ways to raise awareness so that we don’t have to rely on technology,” he said.

“As for developing new tourism, I think they should promote the desert potential of tourism as they can market it as a very interesting place for sustainable tourism — which does not mean they have to reduce the quality.

“We can do luxury combined with sustainability and not in a greenwashing way with the design of luxury desert camps that optimize the natural resources, the sun and the wind for energy.”

Ahlafi said a blueprint would need to be predicated on pushing technology and the habitat you find yourself in. “Technology is the tool, not the solution, the solution is building to suit the environment, not trying to have the environment suit you.”

Legrand said the Kingdom’s capacity to achieve its aims would depend on a “declaration of transparency” in which it not only set out its goals but communicated actions undertaken and results achieved.

Day said it was also important to construct the blueprint not as a series of steps that would work for every country but rather to realize it as a list of questions that all countries could ask of themselves.

“Sustainability and sustainable tourism are ‘wicked problems,’ which means there are many things that need to be done, and it requires many organizations and parts of government to work to achieve common goals,” Day said.

“And while there are a common set of tasks, each destination will have different priorities. So, the questions may be the same — but the answers may be different. For instance, Saudi Arabia probably will focus on water conservation more than some destinations.”

Legrand agreed that the Kingdom’s ability to produce a global blueprint would depend on its ability to recognize that there would be “no one size fits all” approach, but rather a series of questions and inclusion of all stakeholders in the process.

He suggested the questions could include: What are hoteliers’ views on sustainability? Are the restaurateurs capitalizing on local agriculture? Are local communities involved? What are the challenges for these different actors? Are the destination marketers aware?

But he also noted that there were “clear, key topics” that would need to be addressed in a global, universalized manner, not least of which is the elephant in the room: Long-haul air travel.

“Long-haul travel remains a major challenge on the emission front and will remain so for the years to come, although airlines are making progress both in terms of efficiencies and fuel technologies,” he said.

“Transparency at the booking stage is critical to make the right decisions about a trip, here Travalyst and its many members are making progress in providing travelers with that information, such as the carbon footprint of specific airline routes, for example.”

Both Day and Legrand agreed that for Saudi Arabia to meet its ambitions as the vanguard in a push towards sustainable tourism, the country would need to hang its efforts around the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals for industry, not least “collaboration and cooperation.”

They face many challenges, foremost of which is improving citizens’ trust in state institutions.


Who’s Who: Abdulrahman Al-Absi, director of the media and corporate communications at the Saudi Falcons Club

Abdulrahman Al-Absi
Abdulrahman Al-Absi
Updated 21 May 2022

Who’s Who: Abdulrahman Al-Absi, director of the media and corporate communications at the Saudi Falcons Club

Abdulrahman Al-Absi

Abdulrahman Al-Absi has been the director of the media and corporate communications department at the Saudi Falcons Club since 2020.
Al-Absi is also currently the official broadcaster of the King Abdulaziz Falconry Festival where he first started working in 2018.
The club aims to preserve Saudi falconry culture and heritage, creating awareness and reserves for nurturing the falcon population in the Kingdom.
Al-Absi was the head of sports correspondents in 2017 and 2018 at KSA Sports TV, also known as Riyadiya TV.
Before officially joining Riyadiya TV in 2011, he first worked as a program presenter of the “Before the Game” segment on the channel in 2009.  Al-Absi has been covering matches and finals for all sports competitions on the channel since 2011.
He was the official presenter of the Crown Prince Camel Festival in 2018 and 2019, as well as the King Abdulaziz Camel Festival in 2019. He covered numerous global sports events such as the opening of the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics, both held in Brazil.
Al-Absi also covered the 2017 Islamic Games in Azerbaijan and the 2019 AFC Champions League Final in Tokyo.
In 2018, he joined the Saudi national football team delegation to the World Cup in Russia.
Al-Absi earned his bachelor’s degree in public relations and media from King Saud University, Riyadh, in September 2010. He also completed his master’s degree in digital media from KSU’s college of arts in February 2016.
Al-Absi went through professional training during his career to hone his skills. He received training for professional sports TV reporting from the Prince Ahmed bin Salman Applied Media Academy, the Saudi Broadcasting Authority and the Saudi Sports Media Federation. 
He earned a certificate in information technology from Cambridge and is also certified from the e-government program “Yesser,” which enables the Kingdom’s digital transformation.