‘People, planet and prosperity’ top the agenda as Saudi Arabia hosts World Tourism Day celebration

Special ‘People, planet and prosperity’ top the agenda as Saudi Arabia hosts World Tourism Day celebration
World Tourism Day 2023 is an important platform for the world to celebrate the sector’s successes. (Shutterstock)
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Updated 27 September 2023
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‘People, planet and prosperity’ top the agenda as Saudi Arabia hosts World Tourism Day celebration

‘People, planet and prosperity’ top the agenda as Saudi Arabia hosts World Tourism Day celebration
  • More than 500 government officials and industry leaders from 120 countries are in Riyadh from September 27 to 28
  • Saudi Arabia is the chair of the UNWTO Executive Council for 2023 and host of its Middle East headquarters

RIYADH: Since it fully opened its borders to visitors, launched a flexible e-visa system, and began developing a wide range of luxury, heritage and adventure-holiday attractions, Saudi Arabia has reinvented itself in just a few short years into a major emerging tourism market.

The Kingdom is therefore seen by many as the natural choice to host a number of events to mark World Tourism Day 2023, an international day (Sept. 27) that was established by the UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) to celebrate the power of the sector to help bridge cultures.

This year’s meetings and discussions, which will be hosted by Riyadh on Sept. 27 and 28, will address the challenges and opportunities for the industry, under the organization’s core themes of “people, planet and prosperity.”

Saudi Arabia is chairing the organization’s executive council this year, and Riyadh is home to its first regional office in the Middle East, which positions the Kingdom as an important ambassador for tourism in the region.




Saudi Arabia opened its borders more widely to foreign tourists in 2019 and introduced its e-visa system. (Royal Commission for Alula)

More than 500 government officials will join experts and industry leaders from 120 countries at the events, which will examine the ways in which the sector is recovering from the economic blows of the COVID-19 pandemic, and responding to calls for greater environmental and social sustainability.

“We have a historic opportunity to chart a new course for the global tourism sector, centered on sustainable development, job creation and economic resilience,” said Ahmed Al-Khateeb, the Saudi minister of tourism.

“Tourism — as a catalyst for change — fosters mutual understanding, builds bridges, and safeguards cultural heritage and environmental conservation, contributing to a more harmonious world.

“World Tourism Day 2023 is an important platform for the world to celebrate the sector’s successes and explore solutions to its challenges. Saudi Arabia is honored to host this esteemed occasion and we look forward to welcoming tourism leaders from the public and private sectors to Riyadh.”

According to organizers, this year’s event is set to be the biggest and most impactful World Tourism Day in the 43-year history of the event.

In addition to Al-Khateeb, other speakers will include UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili, Saudi Minister of Investment Khalid Al-Falih, Vice Minister of Tourism Princess Haifa bint Mohammed, Spain’s Secretary of State for Industry, Trade and Tourism Rosa Ana Morillo Rodriguez, South Africa’s Minister of Tourism Patricia de Lille, Croatia’s Minister of Tourism and Sports Nikolina Brnjac, and Turkiye’s Minister of Culture and Tourism Mehmet Ersoy.




The Kingdom’s Ministry of Tourism was established in 2020 to bring the sector to the forefront of the Vision 2030 agenda. (SPA)

The list of speakers also includes Pansy Ho, the secretary-general of the Global Tourism Economy Forum, and the CEOs of a number of companies and organizations, including Ibrahim Koshy of Saudi Arabian Airlines, Pierfrancesco Vago of MSC Cruises, Greg Webb of Travelport, Ritesh Agarwal of OYO, Julia Simpson of the World Travel and Tourism Council, and Matthew Upchurch of Virtuoso.

“This World Tourism Day, we focus on the vital need to invest in building a more sustainable sector for people, planet and prosperity,” said Pololikashvili.

“The day also makes clear why UNWTO underscores the need for investment in education and for greater innovation as the foundations for long-term growth and transformation. This year’s official celebration in Saudi Arabia reflects how tourism is being embraced to diversify economies and generate opportunities for all.”

The rapidly growing Saudi tourism industry is driven by the government’s Vision 2030 social reform and economic diversification agenda. The sector is expected to account for 10 percent of the Kingdom’s gross domestic product by 2030, creating 1.6 million jobs.




More than 500 government officials will join experts and industry leaders from 120 countries at World Tourism Day 2023 events. (Diriyah)

Tourism is one of the biggest drivers of economic growth worldwide and is forecast to contribute $9.5 trillion to global GDP this year alone, according to the World Travel and Tourism Council.

This is in line with UNWTO forecasts that tourism is on track to recover to between 80 and 95 percent of pre-pandemic levels this year, and to exceed 2019 levels in 2024.

This is very good news for national economies in both traditional and emerging tourism markets, as the sector not only provides a wealth of employment and business opportunities, it also plays an important soft-power role in promoting cross-cultural understanding.

“Tourism is a powerful force for progress and mutual understanding,” said Antonio Guterres, the UN secretary-general. “But to deliver its full benefits, this force must be protected and nurtured.

“On this World Tourism Day, we recognize the vital need for green investments to build a tourism sector that delivers for people and planet. So let us all do more to harness the full potential of sustainable tourism. Because investing in sustainable tourism is investing in a better future for all.”

FASTFACTS

• Riyadh hosted World Tourism Day for the first time in 2019.

• Kingdom chairs UN World Tourism Organization this year and hosts its Middle East HQ.

The two-day event in Riyadh will focus on three subthemes: mutual understanding, economic sustainability and social prosperity.

Day one, during which delegates will explore “Tourism and Green Investments,” will include panels on the power of tourism in building bridges, investing in human capabilities, the potential of less-visited destinations, the challenges in achieving a sustainable future and the potential solutions, bridging the innovation gap, and powering entrepreneurship.

In the evening, Saudi Arabia’s UNESCO World Heritage Site of Diriyah, north of Riyadh, will host a gala dinner in celebration of World Tourism Day.

The second day will include the “Tourism Leaders Forum,” under the theme “Tourism for People, Prosperity and Intercultural Dialogue,” and a session focusing on the public-sector that will explore options for a sustainable and green future for the industry.

In addition, a private-sector session will look at “seamless end-to-end travel,” with a view to developing the infrastructure, legislation and services needed for mass-transit networks worldwide that promote ease and comfort of travel.




Investment in tourism and infrastructure in Saudi Arabia has grown rapidly. (Shutterstock)

There will also be a handover session during which Saudi Arabia will pass the baton to next year’s host nation, Georgia.

The wider aim of the event, organizers say, is to foster global collaborations, explore opportunities, strengthen the resilience of the tourism sector, and work toward an investment-led and sustainably focused future for the industry.

Delegates will have the opportunity to explore innovative approaches to tourism, consider success stories and best practices that integrate tourism with green investment, and learn how the sector can be promoted as a means of bridging cultures.

Investment in tourism and infrastructure in Saudi Arabia has grown rapidly since the country opened its borders more widely to foreign tourists in 2019 and introduced its e-visa system.

The Kingdom’s Ministry of Tourism was established in 2020 to bring the sector to the forefront of the Vision 2030 agenda, with the aim of creating 1 million jobs for citizens, and enabling and accelerating sustainable growth through future-focused policies.




“We have a historic opportunity to chart a new course for the global tourism sector,” said Ahmed Al-Khateeb, the Saudi minister of tourism. (AFP)

Authorities in the Kingdom say that, guided by data, they are pursuing investments and talent-development programs to attract industry-leading partners. They have set a target of welcoming 100 million foreign visitors by 2030 and boosting the contribution of the sector to GDP from 3 percent to 10 percent during that time.

Tourism projects are under development or construction in several parts of the country, including a chain of luxury resorts along the country’s western coast known as the Red Sea project, and the island of Umluj, which is known as “the Maldives of Saudi Arabia” thanks to its crystal-clear waters and white sand beaches.

Other areas being targeted include the mountainous Asir region, a prime location for outdoor sports and adventure activities, and the ancient desert region of AlUla, site of many archaeological treasures including the UNESCO World Heritage site of Hegra and the “Journey Through Time” master plan, a living, breathing museum and cultural-heritage hub.

On Monday, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman launched the masterplan to develop a new project in Soudah to present a new face of luxury mountain tourism. Soudah Peaks will see a luxury mountain tourism destination set 3,015 meters being created above sea level on Saudi Arabia’s highest peak.

The project will be executed by Soudah Development, a company owned by Public Investment Fund, Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, that is driving the development of Soudah and parts of Rijal Almaa in Asir.




Tourism is one of the biggest drivers of economic growth worldwide and is forecast to contribute $9.5 trillion to global GDP this year alone. (SPA)

The growing investment in tourism and the resulting increase in visitors is good news for key players in the Saudi hospitality industry, who have been working to expand their offerings to meet booming demand for accommodation, dining, activities and relaxation.

“The Kingdom’s identity as the heart of the Arab and Islamic worlds, its leading investment capabilities, and its strategic geographical position all play a significant role in supporting Saudi Arabia on its journey to become a global tourism destination,” Richard Johnson, the general manager of Al-Faisaliah Hotel in Riyadh, told Arab News.

“World Tourism Day, held in Riyadh, will offer a prime opportunity to showcase the Kingdom’s progress to this end, where travel and tourism industry leaders from around the world will gather and witness how the nation proactively connects Saudis with the world, builds bridges between cultures, nurtures hospitality talent, and creates investment opportunities for the international community.”


8th Saudi-US Trade and Investment Council Meeting held in Washington

8th Saudi-US Trade and Investment Council Meeting held in Washington
Updated 23 June 2024
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8th Saudi-US Trade and Investment Council Meeting held in Washington

8th Saudi-US Trade and Investment Council Meeting held in Washington
  • Council tackles bilateral trade and investment issues, promotes market access

RIYADH: The eighth meeting of the Saudi-US Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) Council in the United States kicked off on Sunday in Washington DC.
The Saudi delegation was led by the General Authority of Foreign Trade (GAFT), and it included 20 government entities.
The council's goal is to monitor trade and investment relations in order to identify opportunities for expansion, work on removing trade and investment barriers, improve a promising trade and investment environment, and foster economic development between the two countries.
The council tackles bilateral trade and investment issues, promotes market access, protects and enforces intellectual property rights, manages data and e-commerce, builds capacity, and reviews trade and investment policies.
The Saudi delegation is scheduled to attend several meetings and workshops on the sidelines of the meeting, which will last until Friday.
These include a workshop titled "Trade Opportunities between the Middle East and the United States," which will be attended by US ambassadors in Gulf countries, and the opening session of the Select USA Investment Summit, which will be chaired by US Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo.
The delegation will also participate in the fifth GCC-US Trade and Investment Dialogue Forum, a panel discussion titled "Saudi Investment in Technology," the US-Saudi Forum titled "Investing in Our Shared Future," the GCC-US Roundtable, and the Saudi-US Roundtable, all of which will include private sector participation from both sides.
The trade volume between Saudi Arabia and the US in 2023 was approximately $34 billion, with mineral products and fertilizers being the most significant Saudi exports to the US, while machinery, mechanical appliances and spare parts, and automobiles and spare parts were the top US imports.


Madinah branches out with tree transplant program

Madinah branches out with tree transplant program
Updated 23 June 2024
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Madinah branches out with tree transplant program

Madinah branches out with tree transplant program
  • Relocation of trees to expand green spaces, expedite lengthy process of growth and restoration

JEDDAH: Perennial plants, with their remarkable ability to endure harsh conditions such as droughts, climatic variations, and human activities, play a crucial role in our ecosystem, providing sustenance for people and animals, and contributing to the overall well-being of the environment.

Recognizing the importance of these invaluable assets, the National Center for Vegetation Cover Development and Combating Desertification has embarked on a program to relocate and care for perennial trees in the Madinah region.

In a four-month operation, some trees were moved to Al-Bayda Al-Bari Park as part of the Kingdom’s efforts toward environmental sustainability and vegetation development. (Supplied)

In a four-month operation, the center moved some trees to Al-Bayda Al-Bari Park as part of the Kingdom’s aims regarding environmental sustainability and vegetation development.

Khalid bin Saadullah Al-Saidi, representative of the general administration of grazing and the general administration of protection, supervision, and inspection of NCVC in the Madinah region, told Arab News: “The goal is to preserve the vegetation and relocate these perennial plants to maintain and care for them, achieving the desired objectives through collaboration and initiatives with environmental advocates across the Kingdom.”

HIGHLIGHT

The National Center for Vegetation Cover Development and Combating Desertification has embarked on a program to relocate and care for perennial trees in the Madinah region.

The relocation process involves a thorough selection of trees, based on their type, size, condition, age, and benefits.

Specialists from the center use modern methods to relocate the trees, minimizing damage and ensuring survival.

The criteria used in selecting the trees depend on the type of tree, whether it is wild or cultivated, its size, condition, age, and the extent of its benefit. (Supplied)

The process involves preparing the new site, digging, and manufacturing wooden molds to hold the trees, as well as providing carriers, equipment, and special transport tractors.

Perennials, such as Acacia ehrenbergiana, the Latin thorn tree (Acacia tortilis) and the Maerua crassifolia, that obstruct projects and development lines also will be relocated.

The process of relocating trees involves preparing the new site, digging, and manufacturing wooden molds to hold the trees, as well as providing carriers, equipment, and special transport tractors. (Supplied)

“Acacia ehrenbergiana trees are important local trees in the Kingdom, characterized by their large size, numerous branches, and ability to withstand harsh climatic conditions,” Al-Saidi said.

The wild acacia tree can act as a windbreak, and also provides shade and shelter for birds, as well as sustenance for livestock. The trees can grow to a height of about nine meters, and bear yellow flowers, mostly blooming from mid-February to May. These attract grazing bees, which produce “Salim” honey.

The relocation process went smoothly, thanks to the presence of experts from the center, Al-Saidi said.

“We also acknowledge the cooperation of the Ministry of Transport branch in the region in transporting the trees on main roads, and the interest and cooperation of citizens in this initiative,” he added.

This endeavor makes a substantial contribution to conserving and enriching biodiversity in the Madinah region. Focusing on indigenous tree species, which are integral to the environment and resilient to various conditions, is essential for ensuring sustainability for both present and future generations. The relocation of these trees not only expands green spaces, but also expedites the lengthy process of growth and restoration.

Earlier, on the occasion of World Environment Day, Al-Saidi said: “It is always the duty of individuals to care for the environment and practice proper behaviors to ensure sustainability for the current and future generations.”

NCVC continues to work on such activities and initiatives throughout the year, aiming to safeguard mature and rare trees, ensuring their long-term sustainability, and enriching biodiversity and eco-tourism efforts.

The center’s efforts will lead to the preservation of a wide variety of trees across the Kingdom, promoting environmental sustainability and conservation.

 


Over 1.3m medical services rendered to pilgrims, says Saudi health minister

Successful execution of health management efforts was made possible through efforts of health system and Hajj security forces.
Successful execution of health management efforts was made possible through efforts of health system and Hajj security forces.
Updated 23 June 2024
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Over 1.3m medical services rendered to pilgrims, says Saudi health minister

Successful execution of health management efforts was made possible through efforts of health system and Hajj security forces.
  • Health protocols effectively mitigated heat stress
  • Free health services to pilgrims commenced even before their arrival

RIYADH: Saudi Health Minister Fahd Al-Jalajel has announced the successful execution of health management efforts during Hajj 2024.

“This achievement was made possible through the coordinated efforts of the health system and the Hajj security forces, with no recorded outbreaks of epidemics or widespread diseases,” he said in an interview. “The health system provided more than 465,000 specialized treatment services, including 141,000 services to those who didn’t obtain official authorization to perform Hajj."
Al-Jalajel gave his reassurance about the overall health condition of the pilgrims, despite the high temperatures experienced at the holy sites.
He highlighted the positive impact of the health authorities’ swift responses, and the effective support of the Hajj security forces in managing and reducing the effects of heat stress.
The health system addressed numerous cases of heat stress this year, with some individuals still under care. Regrettably, the number of mortalities reached 1,301, with 83 percent being unauthorized to perform Hajj and having walked long distances under direct sunlight, without adequate shelter or comfort. Among the deceased were several elderly and chronically ill individuals.
The health minister underscored the significant efforts made by the competent authorities to raise awareness on the dangers of heat stress and the importance of preventive measures.
He extended his condolences, saying: “May God forgive and have mercy on the deceased. Our heartfelt condolences go to their families. May God accept their deeds and grant them recompense for their suffering. All reports have been compiled, families of the deceased notified, and identification completed, despite the initial lack of personal information or identification documents. Proper processes were followed for identification, burial, and honoring the deceased, with death certificates provided.”

The minister also detailed that the Kingdom’s provision of free health services to pilgrims commenced even before their arrival, with awareness programs at air, sea, and land border crossings. About 1.3 million preventive services were delivered, including early detection, vaccinations, and medical care upon arrival.

The healthcare services offered included open-heart surgeries, cardiac catheterization, dialysis, and emergency care, totaling over 30,000 ambulance services, with 95 air ambulance operations ensuring the delivery of advanced health services in medical cities across the Kingdom.
Additionally, the healthcare system made available nearly 6,500 beds and rooms. Measures to combat heat stress included the development of devices that enable the rapid and effective rescue of affected individuals.


King Abdulaziz Foundation organizes Saudi-Chinese relations seminar in Beijing

King Abdulaziz Foundation organizes Saudi-Chinese relations seminar in Beijing
Updated 23 June 2024
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King Abdulaziz Foundation organizes Saudi-Chinese relations seminar in Beijing

King Abdulaziz Foundation organizes Saudi-Chinese relations seminar in Beijing
  • Seminar discussed maritime trade between two countries, role of Chinese libraries in caring for Arabic manuscripts

LONDON: The King Abdulaziz Foundation for Research and Archives, organized a scientific seminar on cultural and economic relations between Saudi Arabia and China from June 19-23 in Beijing, Saudi Press Agency reported.
The seminar was held as part of the Beijing International Book Fair, which featured the Kingdom as the guest of honor. It discussed a variety of topics, including maritime trade between the two countries and its cultural and economic implications, the role of Chinese libraries in caring for Arabic manuscripts and preserving Arab heritage, and Arab heritage in China.
Numerous agreements of cooperation in the fields of energy, trade, and investment have strengthened the two countries' strategic partnership. Both countries participated in initiatives aimed at boosting global trade, including joint projects to develop ports, railways, and industrial zones.
Cultural exchanges and academic programs have helped to improve understanding between the two peoples, and Saudi Vision 2030 has broadened the scope of economic cooperation with China in areas such as technology, renewable energy, and infrastructure development.
 


Saudi Arabia to host 56th International Chemistry Olympiad

Saudi Arabia to host 56th International Chemistry Olympiad
Updated 23 June 2024
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Saudi Arabia to host 56th International Chemistry Olympiad

Saudi Arabia to host 56th International Chemistry Olympiad
  • Participation of more than 340 students expected 

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia is set to host the 56th International Chemistry Olympiad, with participation from more than 340 students and 400 university professors and chemistry teachers from 90 countries, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

The prestigious event, which will run from July 21-30 at King Saud University, is organized by the Ministry of Education, and King Abdulaziz and his Companions Foundation for Giftedness and Creativity, and boasts exclusive sponsorship from the Saudi Basic Industries Corporation.

The event is a global chemistry competition in which talented high-school students from around the world compete in the subject. It aims to inspire interest in the subject through the solving of complex and creative chemistry problems; promote international communication in the field; and foster friendships among young science enthusiasts from diverse nationalities.

It will mark the first time Saudi Arabia has hosted the event.

Secretary-General of Mawhiba Amal bint Abdullah Al-Hazzaa said Saudi Arabia’s hosting of the olympiad was testament to the Kingdom’s commitment to supporting talent, science, and innovation, in line with the goals of Vision 2030.

Al-Hazzaa added that Mawhiba had prepared for the event through several parallel tracks, including strengthening coordination with partners to ensure an exceptional hosting experience; preparing talented students for strong competition; and aiming to achieve new milestones for the nation.

Members of the International Steering Committee for the International Chemistry Olympiad praised the Kingdom’s comprehensive preparations during a recent visit to Riyadh.

Their visit included meeting the Saudi minister of education, who launched the awareness campaign for the event in January.

The Kingdom has collected 14 silver and 25 bronze medals at the event in the past, and the Saudi team secured four prestigious awards at the 2023 International Chemistry Olympiad in Switzerland.