Sakani distributes 6,000 plots of land to Saudi families in H1 

Sakani distributes 6,000 plots of land to Saudi families in H1 
Some 911 plots of land were handed out in Riyadh (Shutterstock)
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Updated 12 July 2023
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Sakani distributes 6,000 plots of land to Saudi families in H1 

Sakani distributes 6,000 plots of land to Saudi families in H1 

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia has offered 6,000 plots of land to the beneficiaries of the Sakani housing program in the first half of the year amid efforts of the Kingdom to make housing affordable. 

In an announcement, the platform said the initiative is a follow-up to the launch of eight free housing plans in 11 regions by the Ministry of Housing.

“It is part of the joint efforts to improve affordability in housing to achieve the goals of the Iskan Program, one of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 programs,” said the statement. 

According to Sakani, Makkah received 3,982 free plots of land, with 54 in Rabigh governorate, while Riyadh bagged 911. 

The initiative also made 224 lands available in the Eastern province and 61 plots in the Al-Hinakiyah governorate of Madinah. 

Qassim, Tarif and Hubuna obtained 169, 161 and 100 plots, respectively. 

The ministry also provided 182 plots in Dumat Al-Jandal province in Al-Jawf, 128 in Hail and 40 in Jazan and Al-Baha. 

The announcement further said the program would continue offering more land parcels in the coming period through its website. These could be reserved electronically after selecting the appropriate land and fulfilling the contractual obligations. 

In March, 10,606 Saudi families benefited from the program, of which 9,089 families were allotted their first homes. 

This brought the total number to receive support to more than 21,000 in the first three months of the year.

The fund also deposited over SR2.7 billion into the accounts of Sakani beneficiaries during the same period.

Founded in 2017 by the Saudi Ministry of Housing and the Real Estate Development Fund, the Sakani program aims to increase the proportion of Saudi households that own a house to 70 percent by 2030. 

This includes through creating new housing stock, assigning plots and homes to citizens, and providing financing for their purchases. 

The housing industry in the Kingdom has been witnessing brighter prospects in recent times, with increasing activity in property buying and sectoral investments. 

In May, the housing market got a fresh stream of liquidity, with Saudi Real Estate Refinance Co. announcing SR3.5 billion in sukuk issuances.  


Saudi Arabia sets ambitious targets to strengthen aviation strategy, senior official says

Saudi Arabia sets ambitious targets to strengthen aviation strategy, senior official says
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Saudi Arabia sets ambitious targets to strengthen aviation strategy, senior official says

Saudi Arabia sets ambitious targets to strengthen aviation strategy, senior official says

RIYADH: Increasing passenger numbers and expanding flight routes are among the key objectives of Saudi Arabia’s aviation strategy, according to a senior official.

In an interview with Arab News on the sidelines of the Future Aviation Forum held in Riyadh, Vice President of the General Authority of Civil Aviation for Quality and Traveler Experience, Abdulaziz Al-Dahmash, said the Kingdom has set “very ambitious targets” in this sector.

These include tripling the number of passengers compared to 2019, handling 4.5 million tonnes of cargo, and establishing more than 250 direct destinations from the Kingdom’s airports to global locations.

“Those key targets need enablers, and one of the key pillars is our passenger experience, and we always say that the passenger comes first, so from that perspective, we started different programs from a regulator perspective,” Al-Dahmash told Arab News.

He added: “We said, total quality evaluation or air total quality evaluation program. This program focuses on the passenger experience across all the touchpoints at the airport, from entrance to boarding.”

Al-Dahmash noted that Saudi Arabia’s aviation strategy includes four sub-programs aimed at enhancing passenger experience to meet 2030 targets.

The first focuses on reducing waiting times through operational standards, while the second emphasizes traveler feedback and satisfaction. 

The third ensures infrastructure readiness by inspecting over 1,300 items annually per terminal.

The fourth addresses passengers’ complaints and improves responsiveness and resolution. These initiatives have already shown significant progress since 2019.

“We are still moving forward to achieve our targets in 2030,” Al-Dahmash stressed.

Additionally, the investment showcases in the Kingdom align closely with the national aviation strategy’s ambitious goals.

The initiative presents a substantial economic opportunity amounting to $100 billion, with half of this investment targeted toward developing the airport infrastructure.

Mohammed Al-Khuraisi, the executive vice president of strategy and business intelligence at GACA, told Arab News: “We have King Salman Airport (undergoing a) massive expansion from 40 million to 120 million capacity, similarly, Jeddah Airport. Then we have around $40 billion worth of investments in terms of airlines, that entails commercial airlines.” 

He added: “We have heard Saudia major announcements yesterday of around 105 aircrafts. Prior to that, there were Riyadh Air major announcements as well, and we expect more waves of aircraft acquisitions in terms of passenger, airlines or also cargo airlines.”

Apart from airline investments, around $10 billion is allocated to various aviation-related services such as special economic zones, cargo logistics and general aviation as well as ground handling, maintenance, repair, and catering, illustrating a comprehensive approach to supporting the industry’s expansion and development.

 

Ali Rajab, executive vice president at GACA, air transport and international cooperation. AN

On the air connectivity front, Ali Rajab, executive vice president of air transport and international cooperation at GACA, highlighted Saudi Arabia’s ambitious plans for air connectivity, aiming to increase the number of destinations served by the country’s airports.

“We will have by 2030, 250 destinations that would reach to Saudi Arabia. In 2019, we were only 99, And today we have reached to 149 destinations,” Rajab said.

He added: “This conference focuses on connectivity, and we have around 73 airline representatives here. We have most of the industry, including airports and, logistics services and ground handlers, catering, etc., all of these companies help to have more connectivity, helping the world, connecting each other.”

Rajab also expressed confidence that by 2030, Saudi Arabia will emerge as the leading country within its region in terms of aviation and will rank fifth globally in the industry.


Saudi Ma’aden extracting lithium from seawater, CEO says  

Saudi Ma’aden extracting lithium from seawater, CEO says  
Updated 3 min 38 sec ago
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Saudi Ma’aden extracting lithium from seawater, CEO says  

Saudi Ma’aden extracting lithium from seawater, CEO says  

RIYADH: Saudi Arabian Mining Co. Ma’aden has successfully extracted lithium from seawater, although not at levels that are commercially viable, and its project remains at the pilot stage, the company's CEO told Reuters on Tuesday.  

“We are actually producing lithium from seawater now,” Robert Wilt said.  

Wilt, who is also the vice chairman of Manara Minerals, also said that company was not looking at acquiring diamond business De Beers. “We are not looking at De Beers at all,” he said.  


Riyadh Airport leads annual audit awards as service quality improves across the Kingdom

Riyadh Airport leads annual audit awards as service quality improves across the Kingdom
Updated 21 May 2024
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Riyadh Airport leads annual audit awards as service quality improves across the Kingdom

Riyadh Airport leads annual audit awards as service quality improves across the Kingdom

RIYADH: King Khalid International Airport secured first place at Saudi Arabia’s annual Aviation Security Audit Awards, with the Kingdom’s terminals achieving an 80 percent overall average in service quality assessments for 2023.

Announced during the Future Aviation Forum held in the Saudi capital, the Riyadh-located facility secured the top ranking based on factors such as operational performance standards, evaluation of airport facilities and services, passenger satisfaction questionnaire, and passenger complaints. 

King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah and Abha International Airport collected the second and third awards, respectively. 

The General Authority of Civil Aviation highlighted a 6 percent increase in Saudi airport performance in 2023 compared to the previous 12 months in its Comprehensive Airport Service Quality Assessment Program results. 

The program, one of GACA’s initiatives, aims to evaluate and enhance the quality of services provided to passengers at Saudi airports, improving the travel experience. 

The event was attended by Abdulaziz bin Abdullah Al-Duailej, president of GACA, along with CEOs of airport companies and directors general of Saudi airports.  

In his speech, Al-Duailej emphasized that passenger services and satisfaction are fundamental principles guiding the Kingdom’s airports. He also highlighted the annual event’s role in showcasing its commitment to enhancing service quality, creating competitive airport environments, and promoting continual improvement and development. 

“As part of its regulatory and supervisory role, GACA has taken numerous steps to develop the Kingdom’s aviation system for effective performance,” he said.  

Al-Duailej added that improving the passenger experience and providing services that meet international standards are among GACA’s top priorities, aligning with the objectives of the National Aviation Strategy. 

The president also noted that GACA is continuously working to improve the passenger experience at airports by implementing strict monitoring and supervision standards and indicators. 

He further stated that over 1 million samples of operational performance data have been collected, and feedback from service users and stakeholders has been incorporated into the service development process. 

Abdulaziz bin Abdullah Al-Dahmash, executive vice president for quality and passenger experience at GACA, noted that in 2023, the authority issued around 500 reports under the program.  

These included monthly and quarterly operational performance reports, passenger satisfaction surveys, semi-annual program results reports, and annual program review reports. 

During the event, Al-Duailej launched the ‘Bridges’ program, which aims to empower and connect the Saudi airport sector with local content, starting with 23 investment opportunities valued at SR7 billion ($1.87 billion) by 2030. The program is designed on several strategic pillars to develop national human capabilities. 


STA launches summer program to boost tourism sector

STA launches summer program to boost tourism sector
Updated 21 May 2024
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STA launches summer program to boost tourism sector

STA launches summer program to boost tourism sector

RIYADH: The Saudi Tourism Authority has launched its summer program for 2024 with a lineup of events taking place across seven destinations in the Kingdom. 

According to a press statement, the program launched under the title “Saudi Summer is Next Door” will run for a duration of four months until the end of September. 

The seven destinations included in the summer campaign are Riyadh, Jeddah, AlUla, and the Red Sea, as well as Aseer, Al Baha, and Taif. 

Ahmed Al-Khateeb, Saudi Arabia’s minister of tourism, said that the Kingdom is witnessing rapid growth in the hospitality sector, as it received record-breaking numbers of incoming visitors in 2023. 

“Saudi Arabia is witnessing a transformative period in tourism, driven by our vision to position the Kingdom as a premier global destination. The Saudi Summer Program 2024 is our commitment to showcasing the rich cultural heritage, natural beauty, and unparalleled hospitality that Saudi Arabia offers,” said Al-Khateeb. 

According to the UN’s World Tourism Barometer, Saudi Arabia’s number of visitors arriving in 2023 reached 106 million, a 156 percent increase on 2019.

This year’s summer program will also see the return of the Jeddah Season and the launch of the Aseer Season, featuring numerous family activities and events.

“We invite local and international tourists to experience the diversity of our seven unique destinations and take advantage of the exceptional offers and packages designed to create unforgettable memories,” added Al-Khateeb. 

Developing the tourism sector is crucial for Saudi Arabia, as the Kingdom is steadily diversifying its economy by reducing its dependency on oil. 

Saudi Arabia’s National Tourism Strategy aims to attract 150 million visitors by 2030 and increase the sector’s contribution to the Kingdom’s gross domestic product to 10 percent from the current 6 percent. 

Commenting on the summer program, Zurab Pololikashvili, secretary general of the World Tourism Organization, said: “Saudi tourism is witnessing unparalleled development at all levels, achieving great leaps in recent years. Saudi Arabia has global indicators related to the number of tourists, which has qualified it to top the UN World Tourism list of significant tourist destinations.” 

For his part, Fahd Hamidaddin, CEO and board member of STA, noted that this year’s summer program includes more than 550 tourism products and 150 special offers, including discounts on hotel bookings. 

Moreover, the launch of the summer program comes at a time when visiting Saudi Arabia has become more accessible. To accelerate the number of incoming tourists, Saudi Arabia launched the eVisa and made it available to citizens of 66 countries, which made the Kingdom’s visa 20 percent less expensive. 


Saudi Arabia and Australia sign deal to boost trade ties

Saudi Arabia and Australia sign deal to boost trade ties
Updated 21 May 2024
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Saudi Arabia and Australia sign deal to boost trade ties

Saudi Arabia and Australia sign deal to boost trade ties

RIYADH: Trade ties between Saudi Arabia and Australia are set to strengthen after the two countries signed an agreement to improve cooperation across multiple sectors. 

According to a press statement, the memorandum of understanding was inked between the Australia Saudi Business Council & Forum and the Export Council of Australia. 

The agreement will focus on cooperation in industry, mining and food as well as agriculture, technology, and artificial intelligence. 

The deal will increase the opportunities for Australian exporters to collaborate with Saudi entities, enhancing bilateral cooperation. 

The agreement was signed by the President of the Australia Saudi Business Council & Forum, Sam Jamsheedi, and Arnold Jorge, CEO of the Export Council of Australia, during the latter’s visit to the Kingdom with a delegation. 

“Under this strategic partnership, we will seek to work together closely in identifying initiatives that facilitate connections between Australia and Saudi Arabia,” said Jamsheedi. 

According to the UN Comtrade database, Australia’s exports to Saudi Arabia stood at $789.65 million in 2023. 

On the other hand, the Kingdom’s exports to Australia amounted to $702.75 million over the same 12-month period.  

“We will combine our resources and networks to boost the success of collaborations and partnerships between relevant organizations and individuals of our two countries,” said Jorge. 

The Australia Saudi Business Council was formed in 2013 to facilitate the promotion of ongoing and bilateral trade between the two nations.

In November, Saudi-based Abdel Hadi Al-Qahtani and Sons Co. and Australia’s SSS Group signed a $27 million deal to collaborate in the production of scaffolding systems in Saudi Arabia using local resources.

After the deal was signed, Australian Ambassador Mark Donovan told Arab News at the time that the cooperation agreement builds on the existing investment ties between both countries in various sectors, including education, health care, aviation, and services.

“A new and transformed Saudi Arabia is looking for business relationships around the world, and that’s what we’re very pleased to be a part of,” said Donovan at that time. 

In March, Australia’s University of Wollongong procured licenses to open its branches in the Kingdom.