Women’s empowerment is vital to success, says UNWTO executive director

Women’s empowerment is vital to success, says UNWTO executive director
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The UN World Tourism Organization on Wednesday, World Tourism Day, announced the winners of its Women in Tech Startup Competition: Middle East, being held in Riyadh. (Supplied)
Women’s empowerment is vital to success, says UNWTO executive director
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Executive Director of UNWTO Natalia Bayona said that Saudi Arabia is “booming when it comes to tourism.” (AN/Huda Bashatah)
Women’s empowerment is vital to success, says UNWTO executive director
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The winner of the Tourism and Travel Experience category is Kirti Chandel, CPO at SparkleHaze. for creating an enterprise-based AI assistant speaker, named Woo-Hoo, an in-room voice assistant for hospitality. (AN/Huda Bashatah)
Women’s empowerment is vital to success, says UNWTO executive director
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The winner of the Events and Community category was Menna Ayad, CEO of Fosha, an AI-powered app for booking personalized experiences in the Middle East and North Africa region. (Supplied)
Women’s empowerment is vital to success, says UNWTO executive director
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The winner of the Social Impact Category is Saudi Nouf Alhazmi, CEO of Plastus Biotech, specializing in the making of PHA biodegradable bioplastic re-purposing organic waste. (AN/Huda Bashatah)
Women’s empowerment is vital to success, says UNWTO executive director
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The winner of the Future Tech Category is Zeljana Babic, CEO of Xenios Academy, an AI-powered training program with the mission to help hospitality businesses boost revenue by investing in employee training. (AN/Huda Bashatah)
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Updated 28 September 2023
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Women’s empowerment is vital to success, says UNWTO executive director

Women’s empowerment is vital to success, says UNWTO executive director
  • UNWTO announces winners of Women in Tech Startup Competition: Middle East
  • The competition saw 143 applicants from across Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Oman, Qatar, Bahrain, Iraq, Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan, Yemen, and Syria

RIYADH: The UN World Tourism Organization on Wednesday, World Tourism Day, announced the winners of its Women in Tech Startup Competition: Middle East, being held in Riyadh.
Launched in March to celebrate International Women’s Day, the competition sought women-led startups with innovative approaches to provide services and solutions with a positive social impact.
The competition saw 143 applicants from across Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Oman, Qatar, Bahrain, Iraq, Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan, Yemen, and Syria.
The winner of the Social Impact Category was Saudi national Nouf Al-Hazmi, CEO of Plastus Biotech, which specializes in making PHA biodegradable bioplastic by re-purposing organic waste.

 


Al-Hazmi said: “They’ve only selected four from all over the world … It’s huge. It means a lot to us, for young Saudi women and women around the world.”
Plastus Biotech’s concept falls in line with the Kingdom’s circular carbon economy goal for 2030 and the carbon neutrality agreement of 2060.
She said: “There are many opportunities. We can replace so many products that are fossil-based with more sustainable products that are actually carbon negative, and everyone will benefit.”
The winner of the Tourism and Travel Experience category was Kirti Chandel, chief product officer at SparkleHaze, for creating an enterprise-based, artificial intelligence assistant speaker named Woo-Hoo, as an in-room voice assistant for hospitality.
Chandel says Woo-Hoo creates a personalized experience for guests while remaining sustainable and easy to use.

 

 


She said: “We are boosting green hospitality. We are moving away from all the different devices that are used in hotels that are more cluttered. So, we combine them into one single form factor and also, we are digitizing your compendium menu. So, all the paper that is there within the room is gone.”
The winner of the Future Tech Category was Serbian national Zeljana Babic, CEO of Xenios Academy, an AI-powered training program with the mission to help hospitality businesses boost revenue by investing in employee training.
She said: “I feel extremely empowered. I feel very humbled. I am still shocked. To be honest. This might be one of the happiest moments of my professional career …

 

 


“We cannot invest in hospitality without investing in people and without investing in their education. And only once we do that, they will be able to provide services to their guests.”
The winner of the Events and Community category was Menna Ayad, CEO of Fosha, an AI-powered app for booking personalized experiences in the Middle East and North Africa region.
Executive Director of UNWTO Natalia Bayona said that Saudi Arabia is “booming when it comes to tourism.”
Bayona is a frequent visitor to the Kingdom and has collaborated with the Ministry of Tourism and the Ministry of Education to boost the tourism industry.
She said: “I have to say that … (Saudi Arabia) has those values — the values of investment in people through education, investment in the planet through a better futuristic city for the next generations, and of course, investing in prosperity, in youth, and in technology and innovation.
“I have been working a lot with the ministry to foster education to create together a strategy of human capacity development and to strengthen the power of partnerships again with the private sector for innovation and technology and investments.”

 

 


Bayona said that the Financial Times’ joint report with the UNWTO reported that Saudi Arabia has been growing its foreign direct investment by 80 percent. “That’s crucial and that’s really strong because that means that the country is really into investment and diversifying the economy through tourism.”
With tourism being the top employer of women and youth, Bayona says staying committed and being part of a positive community makes all the difference.
“The most important thing is that I have to be thankful to my bosses,” she said, crediting her employers for empowering and trusting her. “And at the end of the day, that’s what matters. Because of course you can be talented, and you can have a very bright curriculum, but if you are not empowered, you are not (going) anywhere.”


Strawberry picking in Taif serves up a sweet summer escape

Strawberry picking in Taif serves up a sweet summer escape
Updated 20 July 2024
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Strawberry picking in Taif serves up a sweet summer escape

Strawberry picking in Taif serves up a sweet summer escape
  • Locations help create jobs during the summer season

TAIF: A strawberry farm in the rugged mountains of Al-Hada in Taif has emerged as a popular spot for visitors looking to escape the summer heat and appreciate the beauty of nature away from the hustle and bustle of city life.

Arab News recently visited the Al-Hada strawberry farm to see how it captures the essence of the region’s natural beauty and vibrant culture.

At Al-Hada farm in Taif, visitors can pick ripe strawberries and feed wildlife such as ducks, geese and parrots to the soothing sound of a nearby waterfall. (Supplied)

Located high in Al-Hada’s tourist area, the strawberry farm welcomes visitors all year round. The experience allows visitors to pick fresh berries and feed wildlife such as ducks, geese and parrots to the soothing sound of a nearby waterfall.

Along with a modest garden for birds and a lake for ducks and turtles, the space includes stalls selling ice cream, hot drinks and strawberry juice, among other refreshments. It also features seating areas and a cottage.

HIGHLIGHTS

• Turki Al-Ahmadi, Al-Hada farm’s founder, told Arab News that he had designed the farm in a way that draws visitors beyond harvest season from April to June.

• Entry to the farm in Al-Hada costs SR35 ($9).

Turki Al-Ahmadi, the farm’s founder, told Arab News that he had designed the farm in a way that draws visitors beyond harvest season from April to June. Various facilities to provide fun and relaxation in nature have been installed to this end.

At Al-Hada farm in Taif, visitors can pick ripe strawberries and feed wildlife such as ducks, geese and parrots to the soothing sound of a nearby waterfall. (Supplied)

His son, Bandar Al-Ahmadi, said that beside picking strawberries and enjoying the fresh fruit, the family are keen to make the farm a space where adults and children can learn about various types of trees.

The farm showcases models of trees including pomegranate, fig, tangerine, quince, apple and mulberry, with information about their habitat, method of irrigation, places of cultivation, and other key details about their lifespan.

We were told by many relatives who visited the strawberry farm in Al-Hada that their trip to Taif governorate would not be complete if they did not (go for) a strawberry-picking activity.

Hamid Al-Subhi, Visitor

“We were told by many relatives who visited the strawberry farm in Al-Hada that their trip to Taif governorate would not be complete if they did not (go for) a strawberry-picking activity,” Hamid Al- Subhi told Arab News during his visit recently.

At Al-Hada farm in Taif, visitors can pick ripe strawberries and feed wildlife such as ducks, geese and parrots to the soothing sound of a nearby waterfall. (Supplied)

Al-Subhi, who drove from Makkah with his family, was fascinated by the farm’s facilities: “Picking your own strawberries at the farm is really something … my kids really enjoyed it and being on the top of the mountain with such a cool weather really makes our visit more enjoyable.”

Abdul Mohsin Al-Qadi, a visitor from Jeddah, said that the strawberry-picking experience was hugely rewarding for him and his family.

“It is a must-visit destination and a breathtaking view,” he said. “This is our first time visiting this farm and we really enjoyed all activities, from handpicking our strawberries to other family-friendly activities at the small garden for birds and the lake of ducks and turtles,” he said. “It is a great way to enjoy the beauty of the area while also learning about local culture and heritage.”

Entry to the farm in Al-Hada costs SR35 ($9). Strawberry farms can also be found in Abha, Hail and Qatif.

 

 


Heritage meets urban arts at Asir’s Al-Asabila Palaces

The heritage palaces in Asir boost economic activity by creating job opportunities during the summer season. (SPA)
The heritage palaces in Asir boost economic activity by creating job opportunities during the summer season. (SPA)
Updated 21 July 2024
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Heritage meets urban arts at Asir’s Al-Asabila Palaces

The heritage palaces in Asir boost economic activity by creating job opportunities during the summer season. (SPA)
  • Locations help create jobs during the summer season

RIYADH: The famous heritage palaces in the Asir region have become tourist destinations, offering a rich blend of history and culture.

The Saudi Press Agency reported that these sites also boost economic activity by creating job opportunities during the summer season.

The heritage palaces in Asir boost economic activity by creating job opportunities during the summer season. (SPA)

The Al-Asabila Palaces, which are situated in Al-Namas Governorate some 150 km south of Abha, have become a major attraction. Situated in the heart of Al-Namas, these palaces now draw hundreds of visitors daily, both tourists and locals, according to the SPA. Their popularity has surged following their inauguration by Prince Turki bin Talal bin Abdulaziz, chairman of the Asir Development Authority.

Visitors begin their tour of the palaces by shopping in areas dedicated to traditional fashions, antiques, and gifts that showcase the heritage and arts of the Asir region.

The heritage palaces in Asir boost economic activity by creating job opportunities during the summer season. (SPA)

They can then relax with coffee and hot drinks before exploring the Abs Palace, which has been restored to welcome guests.

Tourist guide Saleh Al-Shehri told the SPA: “At the beginning of the Saudi era the palaces served as the headquarters for various government agencies, including the court, and as venues for national events.”

FASTFACTS

• Al-Asabila Palaces are situated in Al-Namas governorate some 150 km south of Abha.

• These palaces now draw hundreds of visitors daily, both tourists and locals, Saudi Press Agency reports.

• The initiative to restore the palaces was taken by their owners and helped transform them into a tourist and cultural attraction, says tour guide.

He added that the initiative to restore the palaces was taken by their owners and helped transform them into a tourist and cultural attraction. This effort aligned with the Kingdom’s Vision 2030, which aims to revitalize the area and boost domestic tourism.

The heritage palaces in Asir boost economic activity by creating job opportunities during the summer season. (SPA)

Historian Amr bin Gharamah Al-Amrawi says that Al-Namas was established in 1363-1364. However, it only received the name Al-Namas about 150 years ago, being previously known as Al-Waad village.

It was later named after the trees in the surrounding areas and the adjacent valley, while the presence of a well called Al-Namasa also contributed to the village being renamed Al-Namas.

The heritage palaces in Asir boost economic activity by creating job opportunities during the summer season. (SPA)

The heritage site features several palaces, including Abs, Mishref, Turban, and Kharif. These structures, which range from two to three floors in height, are examples of the traditional construction style of the Asir region.

The palaces contain 60 rooms and span a total area of about 5,000 sq. meters. The exteriors are of white limestone, extracted from white quartz stone, while the roofs feature wood, leaves, and juniper. The interiors are finished with plaster mixed with clay.

The heritage palaces in Asir boost economic activity by creating job opportunities during the summer season. (SPA)

According to the SPA, the area is home to numerous archaeological sites from various periods, the most famous location being Al-Jahwah village, mentioned by the traveler Al-Hamdani, which is located east of the present-day Al-Namas Governorate.

Al-Amrawi added that the governorate contains Islamic inscriptions in mountains known as Al-Sijin, Al-Gharamah, Dhul-Ain, Ajama, and Qarn Al-Ghala.

 


Saudi Arabia’s Beit Hail festival attracts over 68,000 visitors

Festival highlights include a Hijazi village exhibit, alongside live demonstrations of traditional crafts. (SPA)
Festival highlights include a Hijazi village exhibit, alongside live demonstrations of traditional crafts. (SPA)
Updated 20 July 2024
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Saudi Arabia’s Beit Hail festival attracts over 68,000 visitors

Festival highlights include a Hijazi village exhibit, alongside live demonstrations of traditional crafts. (SPA)
  • The festival includes folk art performances from the Hail and Yanbu regions, a “Made in Hail” pavilion, and an array of traditional foods prepared using heritage methods

RIYADH: The third Beit Hail heritage festival, themed “Your Home Away From Home,” has attracted more than 68,000 visitors since its opening at Aja Park earlier this month, Saudi Press Agency reported.

The 30-day event has drawn visitors of all ages from the region and beyond, offering a showcase of local culture and traditions.

Festival highlights include a Hijazi village exhibit, alongside live demonstrations of traditional crafts. (SPA)

Festival highlights include a Hijazi village exhibit featuring Yanbu’s heritage, alongside live demonstrations of traditional crafts.

Visitors can also observe artisans creating prayer beads, practicing Sadu weaving, crafting leather water bottles, and demonstrating embroidery techniques.

HIGHLIGHT

The 30-day event has drawn visitors of all ages from the region and beyond, offering a showcase of local culture and traditions.

Other showcased skills include hand-woven carpet production, crochet, and the crafting of traditional wooden doors with intricate plaster engravings typical of old Hail residences.

Festival highlights include a Hijazi village exhibit, alongside live demonstrations of traditional crafts. (SPA)

The festival also includes folk art performances from the Hail and Yanbu regions, a “Made in Hail” pavilion, and an array of traditional foods prepared using heritage methods.

Nayef Al-Salhoub, head of the organizing committee, told SPA: “Our goal is to connect younger generations with Saudi Arabia’s rich cultural legacy.”

The event runs daily from 6 p.m. to 1 a.m., featuring a diverse program of folk activities.

Visitors to the festival value the opportunity to explore Saudi Arabia’s ancestral traditions with their children, learning about historical lifestyles and the ingenious use of natural materials in daily life, SPA added.

 


19,817 residency and labor violators arrested across KSA

Saudi police have arrested hundreds of illegals breaching country’s labor law. (SPA)
Saudi police have arrested hundreds of illegals breaching country’s labor law. (SPA)
Updated 20 July 2024
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19,817 residency and labor violators arrested across KSA

Saudi police have arrested hundreds of illegals breaching country’s labor law. (SPA)
  • A total of 1,389 individuals were caught attempting to enter the Kingdom, of whom 45 percent were Yemeni, 53 percent were Ethiopian and 2 percent were of other nationalities

RIYADH: In joint field campaigns across the Kingdom from July 11 to July 17, 19,817 people were arrested for violating residency, labor and border security laws.

This number included 12,436 violators of residency laws, 4,881 violators of border-security regulations and 2,500 violators of labor laws.

A total of 1,389 individuals were caught attempting to enter the Kingdom, of whom 45 percent were Yemeni, 53 percent were Ethiopian and 2 percent were of other nationalities. Additionally, 48 individuals were caught attempting to exit the Kingdom illegally.

Nine individuals were apprehended for involvement in transporting, harboring and employing violators and covering up for them.

A total of 17,067 violators — 15,394 men and 1,673 women — are currently being processed by the relevant authorities.

 

 


Who’s Who: Noel Gomes, CEO of ASCES, Al-Halloul, Al-Badila

Noel Cunha de Ornelas Gomes, Chief Executive Officer of ASCES - Al Halloul, Al-Badila
Noel Cunha de Ornelas Gomes, Chief Executive Officer of ASCES - Al Halloul, Al-Badila
Updated 20 July 2024
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Who’s Who: Noel Gomes, CEO of ASCES, Al-Halloul, Al-Badila

Noel Cunha de Ornelas Gomes, Chief Executive Officer of ASCES - Al Halloul, Al-Badila

Noel Gomes was appointed CEO of ASCES, Al-Halloul, Al-Badila (Alternative Solutions Company for Environmental Services) in July 2024.

He is an entrepreneur and executive with a career in the financial sector spanning more than 25 years.

The Saudi private company focuses on global management of waste and disposal solutions.

As CEO, Gomes seeks to promote a circular economy, using advanced technologies to improve operational efficiency and minimize environmental impact. Under his leadership, the company is transforming waste management into a resource-efficient and environmentally friendly process.

Gomes’ career began at PwC in Portugal, where he refined his accounting and financial management skills. This was followed by significant roles in various multinational corporations, including Asea Brown Boveri, where he became chief of the accounting and treasury department, responsible for international financial reporting and strategic financial management.

Later, he was the group finance director at Novagest, and managed financial departments across Portugal and Angola, focusing on budgeting, reporting, and strategic advisory.

Gomes was a financial director at Lyon, an Angolan project development and construction company, where he oversaw accounting, treasury, and human resources, contributing to the company’s growth in Portugal and Angola.

Later, he became CEO of the LLeon Group, where he led the group’s management strategy, represented international groups in Portugal, and played a key role in the international expansion of Ajman government projects in the UAE.

In 2022, Gomes was a business consultant at the private office of Sheikh Ahmed bin Faisal Al-Qassimi in the UAE, where he expanded the office’s international relations and partnerships, particularly in Portugal.

From October 2022 to January 2023, he was chief international officer at Heights and Jewels, managing international relations and business modeling for projects associated with the private company of a member of the Saudi royal family.

Since 2018, Gomes has also been a prominent figure in the football sector, advising investors, and helping clubs, agents, and players to expand their networks and secure the best deals.

He holds a degree in financial audit from the Lisbon Accounting and Business School and a bachelor’s degree in accounting and administration from Instituto Militar dos Pupilos do Exercito in Portugal.