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.”


Saudi Arabia, Norway host meeting on coordinated approach to recognition of Palestine in Brussels

Saudi Arabia, Norway host meeting on coordinated approach to recognition of Palestine in Brussels
Updated 26 May 2024
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Saudi Arabia, Norway host meeting on coordinated approach to recognition of Palestine in Brussels

Saudi Arabia, Norway host meeting on coordinated approach to recognition of Palestine in Brussels
  • Meeting discussed the urgent need to end the war in Gaza and take the necessary steps to implement a two-state solution

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia and Norway hosted a meeting on a coordinated approach to the recognition of Palestine in Brussels on Sunday.

The meeting discussed the urgent need to end the war in Gaza and take the necessary steps to implement a two-state solution, Saudi Press Agency reported.

It was attended by ministers and representatives of Algeria, Austria, Bahrain, Belgium, Denmark, Egypt, Germany, Indonesia, Ireland, Jordan, Latvia, Portugal, Qatar, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Palestine, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkiye, the UAE, the UK, and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.

The meeting is a continuation of a previous one on the same subject hosted by Riyadh on April 29 for Arab and European ministers.

The conference expressed support for efforts aimed at reaching an immediate ceasefire, releasing prisoners and hostages, ending the war in the Gaza Strip and all illegal unilateral measures and violations in the occupied Palestinian territories including controlling the Rafah crossing, and addressing the catastrophic humanitarian crisis.

Concrete steps toward establishing a Palestinian state in the context of the two-state solution, and adopting a political path that supports a sustainable solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict were also topics of discussion.

The meeting stressed the importance of the international community’s recognition of the Palestinian state in order to adopt a comprehensive approach toward a reliable and irreversible path to implementing the two-state solution in accordance with international law and agreed standards, including UN resolutions and the Arab Peace Initiative.

This would then lead to a just and lasting solution that meets the rights of the Palestinian people and achieves security in the region, paving the way for normal relations between countries, the meeting heard.

The meeting comes before Norway, Spain and Ireland formally recognize a Palestinian state on Tuesday, a largely symbolic move that has infuriated Israel.


Saudi artist embraces her Jazani heritage 

Saudi artist embraces her Jazani heritage 
Updated 26 May 2024
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Saudi artist embraces her Jazani heritage 

Saudi artist embraces her Jazani heritage 
  • Rehab Zakri’s vibrant impressionist works display rich diversity of southern Saudi Arabia

JEDDAH: The Saudi artist Rehab Zakri is carving a niche for herself in the art world by delving deep into the rich culture and identity of southern Saudi Arabia.

The artist’s impressionist works capture her passion for her heritage and have been displayed at various exhibitions, including a solo exhibition in 2020.

The 24-year-old’s art is a vibrant tapestry of colors reflecting the diverse natural landscapes of her daily life in the city of Jazan.

“Jazan, my hometown, is a treasure trove of heritage and natural wonders that stir my soul. Immersed in its rich nature, my artistic journey blossoms,” she told Arab News.

“Each brushstroke tells a story inspired by ventures with friends to coffee farms, the majestic Qahar mountains, and the serene Wadi Lajab.”

Zakris artistic journey began in childhood when her love for painting blossomed into a fully fledged passion after a teacher encouraged her to participate in a drawing competition.

Her talent shone through as she clinched first place in the Jazan region and fourth place nationally in drawing and painting competitions. This early recognition fueled her determination to pursue her artistic dreams further.

Her choice to follow the impressionist school of art stems from her desire for freedom of expression through color, steering away from precision and perfection.

Her paintings, rich in color and emotion, allow her to convey her feelings and thoughts in a visually captivating manner.

“My artistic expression thrives on the interplay of colors, weaving emotions and identity into every stroke, forging a deep connection between my art and my being,” she said.

Zakri has also created a space at home where art comes to life, hosting art gatherings and workshops, welcoming visitors to experience the beauty and identity of Jazan through her eyes.

“I established a personal sanctuary at home, where every stroke of paint breathes life into my creations. It’s a haven where I open my doors to fellow art enthusiasts,” she said.

“Welcoming visitors from afar, I offer them a glimpse into the essence and allure of Jazan. This city, ingrained in my artistic soul, finds its way into myriad brushstrokes, embodying its spirit and beauty in every painting I create.”

Her large-scale interactive artwork, titled “Generosity,” draws inspiration from Saudi culture and vividly portrays the elegance of the Najdi majlis, symbolizing the warm hospitality ingrained in Saudi society. The piece was crafted to honor the Kingdom’s Founding Day.

In her portrayal of a Jazani mountain girl, she captures the essence of the people of Fayfa and their rich cultural heritage. Fayfa village is known for its unique natural features and the warmth of its people. Nestled amid lush greenery and surrounded by stunning mountain landscapes, Fayfa has a rich biodiversity, with vibrant flora and fauna adding to its charm.

Through meticulous attention to detail, the mountain girl is depicted wearing traditional Jazani attire, adorned with a garland of roses and a straw hat and set against a backdrop of lush green. Zakri’s portrait of the girl skillfully reflects the beauty of Jazan’s natural surroundings.

Another painting, “Coffee Farms,” captures the essence of the famed coffee plantations nestled in the Bani Malik mountains of Jazan.

Having participated in various exhibitions, including her first solo exhibition supported by the Culture and Arts Association in Jazan, Zakri’s artwork has garnered widespread acclaim, with each work representing a cherished moment in time.

“The painting dearest to my heart is a portrait of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman,” she said. “It embodies Saudi pride and the ambitious vision reflected in his gaze toward a radiant future.”

Describing her approach to the work, she said,:“I employed my impressionist style, infusing vibrant colors and crisp lines to craft a vivid and expressive depiction exuding prominence. This artwork was acquired by the deputy governor of the Jazan region, Prince Mohammed bin Abdulaziz bin Mohammed bin Abdulaziz,” she said.

Her painting titled “Our Present to Our Future” symbolizes the Saudi people’s achievements in the journey to Vision 2030, depicting that dreams can come true with belief in one’s abilities.

Her advice to aspiring artists, is straightforward. “Work hard, stay committed, and stay open to new experiences,” she said. “In art, don't be afraid to explore new things. And most importantly, enjoy the journey, even when it gets tough.”

Zakri remains enthusiastic about exploring new opportunities in the art world and has built a platform on Instagram where she displays her art and engages with the community.


Training courses for Hajj and Umrah workers begin

An initiative offering 100,000 training opportunities to workers serving Hajj and Umrah pilgrims began on Sunday. (SPA)
An initiative offering 100,000 training opportunities to workers serving Hajj and Umrah pilgrims began on Sunday. (SPA)
Updated 26 May 2024
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Training courses for Hajj and Umrah workers begin

An initiative offering 100,000 training opportunities to workers serving Hajj and Umrah pilgrims began on Sunday. (SPA)

RIYADH: An initiative offering 100,000 training opportunities to workers serving Hajj and Umrah pilgrims began on Sunday, Saudi Press Agency reported.

As part of the Rafid Al-Haramain initiative, 100,000 workers in the public, private, and non-profit sectors will be trained to ensure that the services they offer are of the highest quality and leave a lasting positive impression on visitors to the Kingdom.

The initiative is being organized by the Kingdom’s Ministry of Hajj and Umrah and Makkah’s Umm Al-Qura University.


Three ibex born in King Abdullah National Park

Three ibex born in King Abdullah National Park
Updated 26 May 2024
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Three ibex born in King Abdullah National Park

Three ibex born in King Abdullah National Park
  • The release of the ibex aims to preserve and enhance Saudi Arabia’s biodiversity

RIYADH: Three ibex were born in King Abdullah National Park’s Red Rock Zone after Soudah Development, a Public Investment Fund company, released 23 ibex into the wild last year in collaboration with the National Center for Wildlife.

The release of the ibex aims to preserve and enhance Saudi Arabia’s biodiversity.

It marks a significant milestone in joint reintroduction and conservation efforts, aligning with the Saudi Green Initiative and Vision 2030’s environmental goals.

The two newborns were delivered by two adult ibex, and the third was delivered by a two-year-old ibex.

Soudah Development is closely monitoring a herd of nine ibex to ensure the population’s health and to study their habitat preferences.

“The successful births of the ibex signify a major step forward in our mission to reintroduce endangered species and revitalize the ecosystem within the region,” said Saleh Aloraini, CEO of Soudah Development.

“This development not only reflects our dedication to conservation but also highlights our unwavering commitment to the Saudi Green Initiative.”


Saudi ambassador to Guinea sees off first group of Hajj pilgrims from country

Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Guinea Fahad Al-Rashidi sees off this year’s first group of Guinean Hajj pilgrims.
Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Guinea Fahad Al-Rashidi sees off this year’s first group of Guinean Hajj pilgrims.
Updated 26 May 2024
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Saudi ambassador to Guinea sees off first group of Hajj pilgrims from country

Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Guinea Fahad Al-Rashidi sees off this year’s first group of Guinean Hajj pilgrims.
  • Al-Rashidi said the Kingdom was fully prepared for Hajj

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Guinea Fahad Al-Rashidi on Sunday saw off this year’s first group of Guinean Hajj pilgrims heading from Conakry to the Kingdom.

Al-Rashidi said the Kingdom was fully prepared for the pilgrimage, during which millions of pilgrims from various parts of the world will perform their rituals in the best possible manner, Saudi Press Agency reported.

The ambassador said that due to God’s grace and the generous care and directives of the Saudi leadership, the Kingdom had mobilized its resources, personnel, and capabilities to ensure the comfort, security, and safety of pilgrims.