WEF22: Saudi Arabia rises on several key performance indicators

WEF22: Saudi Arabia rises on several key performance indicators
Saudi Arabia will continue to diversify its economy, ministers from the Kingdom told the WEF. (AN Photo)
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Updated 25 May 2022

WEF22: Saudi Arabia rises on several key performance indicators

WEF22: Saudi Arabia rises on several key performance indicators
  • Princess Haifa bin Mohammed, assistant minister of the Tourism Ministry, said that the Kingdom’s industry “didn’t just recover, but actually increased”
  • Khalid Al-Falih, Saudi minister of investment, said that the Saudi technology and tourism industries have been a driving force in attracting investors from around the world

DAVOS: Saudi Arabia will continue to invest in new sectors and diversify its economy to achieve sustainable growth, ministers from the Kingdom told the World Economic Forum (WEF) on Wednesday.

In the latest WEF Travel and Tourism Development Index (TTDI) published on Tuesday, Saudi Arabia ranked 34 among more than 100 countries for development, sustainability and resiliency in industry — a 10-mark jump from pre-pandemic levels.

Speaking at the Saudi Arabia Outlook session in Davos, Princess Haifa bin Mohammed, assistant minister of the Tourism Ministry, said that the Kingdom’s industry “didn’t just recover, but actually increased.”

She added: “We managed to amend the regulations and policies. We are now among the top 10 countries in the environment of business, travel and tourism.”

The Kingdom’s TTDI score improved in three main sections since 2019: The business environment with an 11 percent rise, tourism demand pressure and impact with an 8 percent rise, and the human resource and labor market with a 7.3 percent rise.

Princess Haifa attributed the growth to the government placing travel and tourism at the center of its recovery plans. Support was quickly provided to ensure that the industry’s development stayed on track, she said.

“The prioritization of the travel and tourism industry from the government perspective is why we managed to do so well during the pandemic and recover. We quickly gave support to accommodations, we protected the jobs in that sector and we focused on training as well. We managed to train 110,000 people last year alone, which is all contributing to the way we are moving forward,” she added.

Minister of Economy and Planning Faisal Al-Ibrahim said that the Kingdom will continue to “make access to talent easy in this upward journey of our economic and social growth.”

Bridging the digital divide and harnessing local talent has been at the core Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 reform plan, Minister of Communications and Information Technology Abdullah Al-Swaha told the WEF session.

In line with the reform plan — put forth by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman — the Kingdom has made significant strides in its goal of diversifying the economy. In 2019, the Kingdom announced that it would open its doors to tourists, and has since introduced protocols to ease travel regulations.

“This has been the thesis for Vision 2030: How we can leverage talent and technology to improve inclusion, sustainability and growth. And on inclusion, we want to make sure that we close down the digital divide and make sure that there is equity in everything that we do,” Al-Swaha said.

As the Kingdom opened its doors to international travelers, it was also quick to reform laws on women’s empowerment and gender parity.

“We are very proud that we have jumped from 7 percent women’s empowerment in tech to more than 29 percent, which is higher than the EU average, the G20 average and even the US average. I just came back from Silicon Valley, where they said that they are at 27 percent.”

However, despite media reports that Saudi Arabia would allow NEOM to operate under its own set of laws and thus allow alcohol, the Kingdom has stayed adamant about changing its regulations to attract foreign tourists.

Princess Haifa said: “We are going to continue with our current laws. We have been doing very well and we have actually been outperforming globally when it comes to tourism with what we currently have to offer today. There is a lot to go around without introducing anything new.”

Khalid Al-Falih, Saudi minister of investment, said that the Saudi technology and tourism industries have been a driving force in attracting investors from around the world.

With the Saudi National Investment Strategy in effect, Al-Falih said that the plan is “leading us to diversify the economy by unlocking some of the new, exciting sectors that have so much potential and so much competitiveness.”

The strategy aims to boost net foreign direct investment flows to $103.46 billion annually by 2030, positioning the Kingdom as the 15th largest economy in the world.

According to the ministers, the progress in Saudi Arabia will also act as an accelerator for regional growth and inspire healthy competition — making the Kingdom and neighboring countries a hub for investment and travel.

Al-Falih said: “I believe that the Kingdom’s rise in its economic and competitive performance actually helps the competitiveness (of neighboring countries). It allows companies and enterprises, and the governments of those countries to integrate with a larger global economy in Saudi Arabia.”

Al-Ibrahim said: “I think competition is essential for us to push the bar upwards, but coordination is also necessary. There is a lot of coordination and collaboration that happens behind the scenes. There is a lot of camaraderie between policymakers within the region that gives us these assurances.”


Saudi women participating in Makkah’s General Cars Syndicate for the first time

Women are now part of the General Syndicate of Cars for the first time, and the are proud and honored to work during Hajj.
Women are now part of the General Syndicate of Cars for the first time, and the are proud and honored to work during Hajj.
Updated 04 July 2022

Saudi women participating in Makkah’s General Cars Syndicate for the first time

Women are now part of the General Syndicate of Cars for the first time, and the are proud and honored to work during Hajj.
  • ‘Our leadership has made it possible for women to work, especially in all government sectors’

MAKKAH: Women will be part of the General Cars Syndicate in Makkah for the first time since it was set up nine decades ago.

The syndicate is an executive body that arranges and organizes pilgrim transportation through affiliated companies.

I am grateful that women now have more professional opportunities to participate and serve during Hajj.

Binan Basnan, Customer service specialist - General Syndicate of Cars

Khadijah Fida, a journalist and content creator at the syndicate, said: “A lot of women have been assisting with work for Hajj in the Kingdom for decades. I saw my father’s work in this sector, along with my brother and husband, and today I have also participated in it. Our leadership has made it possible for women to work, especially in all government sectors, and play an active role in line with Saudi Vision 2030.

(From L to R) Binan Basnan, Mervat Habhab & Khadijah Fida. (Supplied)

“Today, I represent the General Cars Syndicate in the media, public relations, creating quality material, and monitoring the successes of the transport information center during Hajj. I am proud and honored to be a woman from Makkah who works in the syndicate that greatly and actively contributes to the success of Hajj and the safe transport of pilgrims.

The syndicate is always working on creating and establishing an institutional framework for this association that has made a dramatic difference in transport in Makkah.

Khadija Fida, Journalist and content creator - General Syndicate of Cars

“We experience Makkah’s Hajj and Umrah seasons, and the syndicate is always working on creating and establishing an institutional framework for this association that has made a dramatic difference in transport in Makkah to bring comfort to pilgrims who (earlier) struggled on dirt roads to reach Makkah.”

Mervat Habhab, a customer service specialist at the syndicate’s information center, said that women’s roles had become more noticeable and significant.

“It is my mission to interact and address the situation of every beneficiary, based on their needs, and transport them to the relevant departments for a quick response and intervention. It is an honorable and wonderful mission to contribute to the service of pilgrims when those services were limited to men. In this prosperous era and these blessed days, I have the opportunity to play an important and active part as a woman from Makkah who loves God and her homeland.”

Habhab added that government support motivated them to improve their work performance every year.

Binan Basnan, another customer service specialist at the syndicate, said: “I am proud and honored to work in a great institution such as the General Cars Syndicate that serves pilgrims on their Hajj journey through receiving their inquiries and complaints. I am grateful that women now have more professional opportunities to participate and serve during Hajj. I hope to be rewarded (by God) and thank our government, which gave us these great opportunities.”


Madinah exhibit enriches the visitor experience

There is audio translation, enabling visitors to access the exhibition’s content through dedicated devices. (SPA)
There is audio translation, enabling visitors to access the exhibition’s content through dedicated devices. (SPA)
Updated 04 July 2022

Madinah exhibit enriches the visitor experience

There is audio translation, enabling visitors to access the exhibition’s content through dedicated devices. (SPA)
  • The exhibition presents content in several languages through wall panels and interactive screens

MADINAH: The Exhibition of the Prophet’s Holy Mosque Architecture is considered a historical legacy, as it contains valuable possessions and rare artifacts that enrich the visitor experience.

It is south of the Prophet’s Mosque, over an area of 2,200 square meters, and reviews the history of the building’s architecture since its first construction by Prophet Muhammad and his companions until the expansions of the first, second, and third Saudi states.

These expansions span more than 1,400 years and are witness to the beauty and elaboration of Islamic architecture, its designs, and ornamentations.

In collaboration with the Al-Madinah Al-Munawwarah Research and Studies Center, the General Presidency for the Affairs of Two Holy Mosques is highlighting the architectural dimensions of the Prophet’s Mosque, shedding light on its specialty, status, and architecture, elevating the level of cultural awareness in Islamic civilization, and enriching the visitor experience at an artistic and cultural level through a detailed and comprehensive presentation.

The presidency has also worked on introducing visitors to the features of the Prophet’s Mosque, such as the pulpit, mihrab, domes, canopies, doors, adhan, muezzins, minarets, squares, and the services offered to people.

The exhibition presents content in several languages through wall panels and interactive screens. All exhibition output is in Arabic and English, while the content has been translated into 12 languages.

There is also audio translation, enabling visitors to access the exhibition’s content through dedicated devices. Visiting time is divided into two daily periods from 7 a.m. until midday and from 4 p.m. until 10 p.m.

The exhibition features modern technology, interactive screens talking about architecture, information related to the Prophet’s Mosque, films, and cinema halls.

It also has special halls for valuable objects, including rare and precious items belonging to the Two Holy Mosques and ancient artifacts preserved through the ages.

The experience time in the exhibition is around 40 minutes, with 30 visitors per tour.


11 Robots sanitize Grand Mosque in Makkah

Robots sanitize Grand Mosque in Makkah. (SPA)
Robots sanitize Grand Mosque in Makkah. (SPA)
Updated 04 July 2022

11 Robots sanitize Grand Mosque in Makkah

Robots sanitize Grand Mosque in Makkah. (SPA)
  • Each robot works from five to eight hours without any human intervention

MAKKAH: Eleven robots have been sent inside the Grand Mosque of Makkah to sanitize the holy site as part of the pandemic control measures of the Services, Field Affairs and Environmental Protection Agency at the General President for the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques.

The robots will automatically sanitize all areas of the mosque and analyze sanitization requirements to protect pilgrims and worshippers from bacterial threats.

With programming of the layout of the mosque loaded into their systems, the robots will clean the mosque according to attendance.

The robots use simultaneous localization and mapping technology, which features a high-performance atomization unit and a battery charging feature.

Each robot works from five to eight hours without any human intervention. The device can carry up to 23.8 liters of sanitizer, consuming 2 liters per hour, to eliminate bacteria in an area of ​​600 sq m on each round. The robots can move for 3 km without any support from humans.

The robots feature a front detection system to avoid running into obstacles for up to 10 meters. The device carries a camera that contains a high-quality radar for mapping.

The smart robot device has obtained international certificates, including the European CE Quality Accreditation Certificate.


New lake park in Historic Jeddah highlights cultural destination

The project is part of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 goals of cultivating environmental projects. (Supplied)
The project is part of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 goals of cultivating environmental projects. (Supplied)
Updated 04 July 2022

New lake park in Historic Jeddah highlights cultural destination

The project is part of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 goals of cultivating environmental projects. (Supplied)
  • Jeddah’s historical district was placed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List in 2014, presenting a vivid recreation of life in the past

JEDDAH: The Jeddah historic district program has launched a new lake park — “Lake Al-Arbaeen” — launched in the historical district of Jeddah as an exclusive cultural destination.

The project is part of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 goals of cultivating environmental projects and improving the quality of life within the city’s historical area.

Several artistic sculptures from throughout the world are placed within the park. Visitors can stroll through historical architecture, natural scenes, cultural events, sports tracks, local restaurants and souqs that highlight the city’s heritage.

Jeddah’s historical district was placed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List in 2014, presenting a vivid recreation of life in the past.

Founded in the 7th century C.E., Al-Balad once served as a center of trade and commerce for Jeddah. But most of the ancient walls that surrounded the town, and the souq within it, became weathered and were eventually torn down as centuries passed.

As wealth from oil began to flow into the Saudi economy and the country began a march toward modernity, many people moved out of the cramped spaces of Al-Balad, leaving its more palatial homes and buildings to slow dilapidation.

There are more than 450 buildings within the historical walls of the city, 56 of which are in urgent need of repair.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has pledged SR50 million ($13.33 million) to support the restoration of these buildings as they represent a major part of the Kingdom’s ancient heritage and are a significant tourist site.


Guests of God Service Program seeks to enhance pilgrims’ Hajj experience

Saudi Arabia has launched an app called Smart Pilgrim for convenient ways of making Umrah ritual bookings. (SPA)
Saudi Arabia has launched an app called Smart Pilgrim for convenient ways of making Umrah ritual bookings. (SPA)
Updated 03 July 2022

Guests of God Service Program seeks to enhance pilgrims’ Hajj experience

Saudi Arabia has launched an app called Smart Pilgrim for convenient ways of making Umrah ritual bookings. (SPA)
  • The Ministry of Hajj and Umrah has integrated smart systems to promote the safe travel of pilgrims during their stay in the holy cities to ensure they perform their religious rituals easily and safely

RIYADH: The Guests of God Service Program, which was inaugurated by King Salman in 2019, is one of Saudi Arabia’s key reform plans as part of its Vision 2030.

It seeks to host large numbers of pilgrims, facilitate their access to the Two Holy Mosques, ensure they have access to high-quality services through the most advanced technology, and enhance their cultural and spiritual experience.

It also seeks to ensure that pilgrims safely return to their countries of origin after completing all their rituals.

The Ministry of Hajj and Umrah has integrated smart systems to promote the safe travel of pilgrims during their stay in the holy cities to ensure they perform their religious rituals easily and safely.

The first phase of smart systems went live in 2019 to assist pilgrims in their movement and safety.

Since then, the ministry has collaborated on digital transformation with technology firms and strategic partners to promote the application of smart solutions and facilitate the smooth implementation of all services.

It has also adopted an e-bracelet program for the safety of all pilgrims, which stores vital data and gives them support.

Ministry under-secretary Mohammed Al-Bijawi said: “We have performance indicators that show our complete readiness to provide an outstanding experience for pilgrims.”

The Kingdom has also launched an app called Smart Pilgrim for convenient ways of making Umrah ritual bookings, even by overseas pilgrims.

“We were keen to use technology in the Hajj and to use the smart card to contribute to the movement of pilgrims and the speed of access to their sites, and it will be applied in this year's Hajj,” said Minister of Hajj and Umrah Tawfiq Al-Rabiah.