Saudi Tourism Development Fund allocates $266m to back 50 projects, reveals minister  

Saudi Tourism Development Fund allocates $266m to back 50 projects, reveals minister  
Kingdom’s Minister of Tourism Ahmed bin Aqil Al-Khatib. (AN Photo/File)
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Updated 23 November 2022

Saudi Tourism Development Fund allocates $266m to back 50 projects, reveals minister  

Saudi Tourism Development Fund allocates $266m to back 50 projects, reveals minister  

RIYADH: The Saudi Tourism Development Fund has allocated SR1 billion ($266 million) to back up to 50 medium and small projects the Kingdom’s Minister of Tourism Ahmed bin Aqil Al-Khatib has announced. 

He revealed this during the ministry's second virtual monthly meeting held to review the progress made in this key sector, Al Arabiya reported.

Al-Khatib also discussed the ministry’s efforts to further elevate the tourism sector's role in the Kingdom. 

He revealed that the ministry encourages and motivates small project owners to submit significant feasibility studies in order to obtain the necessary support. This will help them provide highly efficient tourism services. 

In an attempt to move towards achieving the ambitions and aspirations of the national tourism strategy, the ministry is currently in process of preparing the Umrah strategy, the strategy for developing the city of Taif, preparing for the winter season, and trying to keep up with the World Cup, Al-Khatib said. 

In addition to this, the ministry has allocated as much as SR100 million per year to train and help individuals become equipped to work in the Kingdom’s tourism sector. The ministry has also recommended a certain number of investors in the sector to further localize jobs and attract more Saudi talent, he stressed. 

Since the establishment of the ministry, the number of firms operating in the tourism sector has hit 777 companies. Now it aims to raise the number of firms operating in the sector to 1,000 in the near future, the minister disclosed. 

By offering tourism programs characterized by diversity and richness, Al-Khatib said they will be able to create more opportunities for competition and improve services in the Kingdom. 

Moreover, under the Kingdom’s Vision 2030, Saudi Arabia has an ambitious target to receive 30 million pilgrims and Umrah performers per year by 2030. To achieve this, he said positive cooperation from various government sectors related to organizing trips will be required. The minister explained that it is also needed to offer an integrated tourism experience that meets the aspirations of visitors and tourists. 

The Kingdom is currently developing a number of attractive tourism projects across various destinations such as Neom and the Red Sea coasts, he said. 

Riyadh is set to become the capital of the global tourism industry as the Kingdom steadily diversifies its economy in line with the goals set out in Saudi Arabia's Vision 2030 strategy, Al-Khateeb emphasized. 

Speaking at the Future Investment Initiative in Riyadh on Oct. 25, Al-Khateeb said in order to give incoming travelers the best experience possible, the nation is building spectacular destinations which will operate in a sustainable manner.   

“We have the vision, we put the plan, and we put all the resources, especially the financial resources to deliver the plan,” said Al-Khateeb. 

Earlier this year, authorities in Saudi Arabia signed an agreement to enhance cooperation in tourist-transport services within the Kingdom, support marine tourism, and develop and promote tourism in the western and eastern regions.  

The memorandum of understanding was signed by the Saudi Railways Co., known as SAR, and Cruise Saudi, which is responsible for developing the Kingdom’s cruise sector. 


Saudi Arabia’s regional maritime transshipment share hits 32% in boost for Vision 2030 goals: Minister 

Saudi Arabia’s regional maritime transshipment share hits 32% in boost for Vision 2030 goals: Minister 
Updated 36 sec ago

Saudi Arabia’s regional maritime transshipment share hits 32% in boost for Vision 2030 goals: Minister 

Saudi Arabia’s regional maritime transshipment share hits 32% in boost for Vision 2030 goals: Minister 

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s share of transshipment operations in the region has almost tripled in three years, according to the Kingdom’s Minister of Transport and Logistics Saleh Al-Jasser. 

The level rose to 32 percent in 2022, up from 12 percent three years prior, the minister revealed.

The Kingdom is aiming for a 50 percent regional share of transshipment - the act of off-loading a container from one ship and loading it onto another ship to its final destination – by the end of the decade as part of its Vision 2030 goals.

It also intends to have the largest share of transit maritime trade in the Red Sea, drawing in global transshipment operations to Saudi ports. 

“Seventeen international maritime lines were launched in the Kingdom, which increased the interconnection of ports and increased the process of exports, imports, and transportation through the Kingdom to other countries,” Al-Jasser told Asharq on the sidelines of the LEAP conference taking place in Riyadh. 

The Ministry also initiated the Unified Logistics Window on Monday to grant access to operational services in numerous languages across multiple entities from the country’s logistics ecosystem. 

Al-Jasser added that the platform will facilitate the beneficiary and improve the customer experience.  

While it currently comprises 70 transportation system services, the platform aspires to increase to 450 automated services in 2025. 

“What we are currently working on is re-engineering, facilitating, and unifying these services. The platform is intended for individuals, the business sector, and government agencies that are integrated with the transportation system,” added the minister.  

As for the Kingdom’s railway sector, the minister underlined that the expansion plans of the railways in the near future will focus on achieving connectivity both locally and in the region.  

The sectoral rail strategy is set to add around 8,000 km to the current rail network, which is  currently 5,500 km, according to Al-Jasser's statements to Asharq. 

Another main concern of this strategy is Saudi Arabia’s rail transport of goods – the total tons transported on trains in 2022 is equivalent to the displacement of almost two million trucks from the Kingdom’s roads. 


Technology, regulatory and cost factors to drive green transportation developments, say IEAA conference panelists

Technology, regulatory and cost factors to drive green transportation developments, say IEAA conference panelists
Updated 11 min 49 sec ago

Technology, regulatory and cost factors to drive green transportation developments, say IEAA conference panelists

Technology, regulatory and cost factors to drive green transportation developments, say IEAA conference panelists

RIYADH: The transport sector's dependency on fossil fuel has dropped by just 3 percent since the 1970s, Saudi Aramco's Transport Chief Technologist Amer Amer said as he emphasized the need to keep developing green fuels.

Speaking on the third day of the International Association for Energy Economics conference in Riyadh, Amer insisted there needs to be more effort put into technology development to ensure significant greenhouse gas emission reductions.

Amer said: “Improving the technology, not only on the engine side but also on reducing the carbon intensity of fuels that go into these vehicles, will result in an immediate reduction in greenhouse gasses. 

“Also, Saudi Aramco is working on direct air capture to bring the cost of this technology to less than $100 per tonne of CO2.”

His comments came during a panel session focused on the technology and regulatory options needed to deliver transport services, while meeting the challenges of resource use, emissions, cost, and impact on the urban environment.

Geetam Tiwari, professor of civil engineering, transportation research, and injury prevention program at IIT Delhi, used her appearance on the panel to warn that when creating transport systems, investing or relying only on technology innovation may not be the answer. 

“Many innovations happen because of setting targets by governments, regulations are required,” she said.

Tiwari used the example of electric buses to highlight the need for a pragmatic approach in this area.

“Instead of straight away emphasizing on a 100 per cent conversion to electric, we have to go slowly and understand all the barriers and problems that we are going to face,” she said. 

Gerardo Rabinovich, the previous president of the Latin American Association of Energy Economics used his remarks to warn about the high entry costs for consumers into green transportation.

“We have economic barriers already for the electric vehicle because the price of an electric vehicle for the people is 50 per cent more than the regular vehicle, and that needs fiscal incentive and maybe subsidies,” he said.

Andreas W. Schäfer, chair of energy and transport at the University College London Energy Institute, insisted that renewable technologies “must be market ready and deployable at scale by 2030.”

He warned against seeing liquid hydrogen – which is used in rocket fuel – as a potential resource in this area, as it would require major infrastructure transformation to make it viable. 

Topics being tackled at the forum, which runs from Feb. 4 to 9, including renewable energy opportunities and challenges, challenges facing the power sector in the MENA region, and the impact of oil price volatility on supply and investment.

The IAEE is a global non-profit organization formed in the US in 1977 and works to promote dialogue and the exchange of ideas around the economic analysis of energy resources.


COP28 President Sultan al-Jaber says he is listening, ready to engage

COP28 President Sultan al-Jaber says he is listening, ready to engage
Updated 07 February 2023

COP28 President Sultan al-Jaber says he is listening, ready to engage

COP28 President Sultan al-Jaber says he is listening, ready to engage

BENGALURU: The UAE climate envoy and designated COP28 president said on Tuesday his country, which is due to host the summit later this year, was approaching the task with humility, responsibility and urgency. 

"It is not a conflict of interest. It is in our common interest to have the energy industry working alongside everyone on the solutions the world needs," Sultan al-Jaber, who is also head of the state oil giant ADNOC, said at the India Energy Week conference. "The UAE COP presidency is listening and ready to engage." 

Jaber's appointment to lead the climate summit this year fuelled activists' worries that big industry was hijacking the world's response to the global warming crisis. 

The UAE, a major OPEC oil exporter, will be the second Arab state to host the climate conference after Egypt in 2022. 

The UAE and other Gulf energy producers have called for a realistic energy transition in which hydrocarbons would keep a role in energy security while making commitments to decarbonization. 

"We cannot unplug the current energy system before we have built the new one," said Jaber, who was the founding CEO of Abu Dhabi renewable energy firm Masdar before becoming ADNOC chief.

"We must minimize their carbon footprint, only invest in the least carbon-intensive barrels and continue to reduce their intensity," he added. 

Jaber also said developing nations had seen little justice so far when it comes to energy transition and pointed to capital needed to fully operationalize the loss and damage fund approved in COP27. 

The deal to create the fund was hailed as a breakthrough for developing country negotiators at the Egypt summit last year but climate activists have since complained that the fund remains empty of cash. 

The Nov. 20-Dec. 12 COP28 will be the first global stocktake since the landmark Paris Agreement in 2015. 

On Tuesday, Jaber said that eliminating energy poverty was essential alongside keeping the goal of capping global warming at 1.5 degrees Celsius alive. 

 

 


Tech firm Gameball raises $3.5m to fuel Saudi and international expansion

Tech firm Gameball raises $3.5m to fuel Saudi and international expansion
Updated 07 February 2023

Tech firm Gameball raises $3.5m to fuel Saudi and international expansion

Tech firm Gameball raises $3.5m to fuel Saudi and international expansion

CAIRO: US-headquartered customer relations management platform Gameball secured $3.5 million in a seed funding round to fuel its Saudi operations as well as expand to European countries. 

Founded in 2020, Gamball provides an all-in-one customer intelligence and marketing CRM platform for consumer brands to analyze customer behavior, leverage first-party data, identify monetization opportunities, and execute retention strategies. 

In an exclusive interview with Arab News, Ahmed Khairy, CEO of Gameball, said that the company plans to utilize its funding to expand sales and partnerships as well as customer support activities in the Kingdom. 

“We are planning to expand our commercial and customer support activities in the Kingdom. Our model is that we build a network of channel partners in each country in which we operate. This allows us to scale fast while benefiting from these partners who have local market knowledge and expertise,” Khairy added. 

The company witnessed organic growth since its inception and received positive feedback from large and small businesses using their platform to leverage customer retention with Gameball customers witnessing a three times increase in purchase frequency. 

“Saudi Arabia has powered our growth and as brands leverage insights from digital platforms, they are turning to us,” he added. 

Since its inception, Gameball served over 7,000 businesses, 20 million consumers, and processes more than $260 million worth of transactions every month. 

“With Gameball, it’s easy for brands to kick-start their journey on our platform. We anticipate at least 50 big retailers signing up this year. This will complement our diverse range of clients from around the world,” Khairy stated. 

Khairy explained that the business is not resource intensive and will continue to hire based on its growth and client demand as he plans to hire experts in business development and account management to be based in their office in Riyadh.  

Gameball has targeted Germany and the UK as part of its international expansion while investing in commercializing its product. 

“While we’ve secured funding, we want to be prudent about how we spend our capital. Right away, we’ll be hiring Country Managers in each of those countries and as our business scales, we’ll recruit for additional positions,” Khairy told Arab News. 


Oil Updates — Crude up; Turkiye’s Ceyhan oil terminal halted after quake  

Oil Updates — Crude up; Turkiye’s Ceyhan oil terminal halted after quake  
Updated 07 February 2023

Oil Updates — Crude up; Turkiye’s Ceyhan oil terminal halted after quake  

Oil Updates — Crude up; Turkiye’s Ceyhan oil terminal halted after quake  

RIYADH: Oil prices rose for a second straight session on Tuesday, driven by optimism about recovering demand in China, and concerns over supply shortages following the shutdown of a major export terminal after an earthquake in Turkiye. 

Brent crude futures rose 80 cents, or 0.99 percent, to $81.79 per barrel at 08.25 a.m. Saudi time, while West Texas Intermediate futures rose 78 cents, or 1.05 percent, to $74.89 per barrel. 

Colombia’s oil output in December rises 5.24 percent 

Colombia’s crude oil production in December rose 5.24 percent versus the same month a year earlier, the government said on Monday. 

Oil output was up to an average of 784,343 barrels per day in December 2022, compared with production of 745,325 bpd in the same month in 2021, the Ministry of Mines and Energy said in a statement. 

Colombia’s oil production in December was the highest since April 2020, when the country produced an average of 796,164 bpd, the government said. 

Average oil production for the year rose 2.42 percent to 754,199 bpd, the ministry said, up from an average of 736,357 bpd in 2021. 

Natural gas output in December was 1.06 billion cubic feet per day, the ministry said, without providing a comparative figure. 

Gas production for the year averaged 1.07 billion cubic feet per day, down 1.29 percent versus 2021, when gas production hit almost 1.09 bcfd, the government said.     

State-run Ecopetrol produces the majority of the country’s oil.  

Turkiye’s Ceyhan oil terminal, Iraq’s KRG pipeline halted after quake 

A massive earthquake that struck Turkiye and Syria on Monday halted operations at Turkiye’s major oil export hub in Ceyhan and stopped key crude oil flows from Iraq and Azerbaijan, officials said. 

The Tribeca shipping agency said in a notice that the BTC terminal at Ceyhan that exports Azeri crude oil will be closed through Wednesday pending damage assessments. Azerbaijan uses the Turkish port of Ceyhan as its main crude export hub, with a flow of about 650,000 bpd. 

BP Azerbaijan said a “small” oil leak had been found at Ceyhan, which led to operations being halted, and had been stopped.  

After Monday’s earthquake, Iraq’s Kurdistan Regional Government halted flows through the pipeline it operates that runs from Iraq’s northern Kirkuk fields to Ceyhan, the region’s ministry of natural resources said. 

The KRG had been pumping 400,000 bpd and Iraq’s federal government was pumping 75,000 bpd through the pipeline, an oil industry source told Reuters. 

Oil exports will resume after a “careful inspection of the pipelines is finalized,” the MNR said in a statement. 

Most upstream oil producers have several days of storage capacity, so KRG production should continue in the near term, the oil industry source added. 

The eastern Mediterranean terminal of Ceyhan is some 155 km from the area of the magnitude 7.8 quake which struck southern Turkiye and northwest Syria early on Monday, killing more than 2,400 people across a swathe of the two countries as buildings collapsed. 

It was the worst tremor to strike Turkiye this century and was followed in the early afternoon by another large quake of magnitude 7.7. 

Turkiye’s state pipeline operator BOTAS said natural gas flows were halted to Gaziantep, Hatay and Kahramanmaras provinces and some other districts as a result of damage to a gas transmission line. 

(With input from Reuters)