Saudi Arabia and Uzbekistan show their brotherly love at the UN WTO meeting

Saudi Arabia and Uzbekistan show their brotherly love at the UN WTO meeting
Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Tourism Ahmed Al-Khateeb — who also serves as chairman of Diriyah Gate Development Authority – takes part at the 25th session of the General Assembly of the UN World Tourism organization in Samarkand, Uzbekistan. (Supplied)
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Updated 22 October 2023

Saudi Arabia and Uzbekistan show their brotherly love at the UN WTO meeting

Saudi Arabia and Uzbekistan show their brotherly love at the UN WTO meeting
  • KSA joins 150 countries for the 25th General Assembly of the UN World Tourism Organization in Samarkand

SAMARKAND, Uzbekistan: The quaint historic town of Samarkand, Uzbekistan, which was founded in the 7th century BC, sprung into life this week when high-level delegates, ministers and distinguished guests from more than 150 countries came together for the 25th session of the General Assembly of the UN World Tourism Organization. Held between Oct. 16-20, the Saudi presence was evident throughout the festivities.

On a sunny Samarkand day – after a rainy night – it was announced that Diriyah Co. from Saudi Arabia would officially join the UNWTO as an affiliate member, in a significant move towards fostering global tourism collaboration and advancing the Kingdom’s tourism sector globally. Affiliate Members normally form an integral part of the UNWTO Membership and significantly contribute to a more sustainable, innovative, and collaborative global sector.

As an affiliate member, Diriyah Co. issued a statement announcing it “would actively engage with UNWTO and its global network to collaborate on initiatives, share insights, and support the organization’s mission of making tourism a force for positive change around the world.”

It added: “This partnership is set to enhance the cultural exchange, heritage preservation, and sustainable tourism efforts undertaken by Diriyah Co.”

The company also stated that the collaboration would facilitate discussions on sustainability, innovation and inclusivity in the tourism sector, all of which are essential components of its ongoing efforts to transform the historic city of Diriyah into a vibrant tourist destination.

Diriyah Co.’s affiliation with the UNWTO would also be seen as a testament to Saudi Arabia’s global commitment to advancing the tourism industry globally as well as promoting responsible travel and preserving the world’s cultural and historical heritage.

Under the guidance of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the Diriyah giga-project has been in alignment with the UN’ Sustainable Development Goals since its start, as it primarily focused on urban regeneration and sustainable development in the area often seen as the birthplace of the Kingdom.

The Diriyah Project, a flagship initiative within Vision 2030, has been central to the Kingdom’s transformation agenda. The  $63.2 billion investment pipeline has added around $18.6 billion to the Kingdom’s gross domestic product and is estimated to create 178,000 direct jobs. It also aims to attract 50 million visitors a year by 2030.

As an affiliate member, Diriyah Co. will actively engage with UNWTO and its global network. (Supplied)

Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Tourism Ahmed Al-Khateeb – who also serves as chairman of Diriyah Gate Development Authority – was present at the General Assembly, and said: “Tourism connects people, cultures, and economies. In our shared global future, tourism plays a crucial role in promoting sustainability, collaboration and economic prosperity. Because of this, I am absolutely delighted that Diriyah is an Affiliate Member of the UNWTO – marking a significant milestone in Saudi Arabia’s commitment to global tourism collaboration.”

Secretary-General of the UNWTO Zurab Pololikashvili added: “Diriyah’s commitment to preserving its rich cultural heritage while promoting sustainable tourism aligns seamlessly with UNWTO’s mission. This affiliation is a testament to the Kingdom’s dedication to making tourism a force for positive change globally, and I look forward to the invaluable contributions Diriyah Co. will bring to our international network. There is only one Diriyah.”

This was not the first mention of the Kingdom during the UNWTO.

In a video announcement, the audience at the UNWTO General Assembly was treated to a clip regarding the new Riyadh School of Tourism and Hospitality.

“One of the first initiatives of the UNWTO’s regional office (in Riyadh) was to develop the Riyadh School of Tourism and Hospitality – dedicated to supporting the ambitions of the new generation of tourism leaders,” Basmah Al-Mayman told Arab News. Al-Mayman is the Middle East regional director at the UNWTO, and the first national from a Gulf Cooperation Council country to become director of that department since the agency was established more than three decades ago.

Al-Mayman, who was also present at the event, said that an agreement was signed between the Ministry of Tourism in the Kingdom and the UNWTO to develop this groundbreaking e-learning platform. As a result, this established the first tourism academy in Riyadh – and the first such dedicated space in the region. It would “aspire to be the largest multicultural educational environment in the world and a leading global center of excellence, redefining tourism and hotel education,” she added.

Meanwhile, in the Uzbek capital of Tashkent, strengthening relations between the two countries has been morphing from within for some time.

“Over these two years, Saudi-Uzbek relations have reached a new level of unprecedented development and progress. The Saudi-Uzbek relations can be described as exemplary,” the Kingdom’s ambassador to the Asian country, Yousef Saleh Algahrah Al-Otaibi, told Arab News. He was also present at the event.

He recalled the historic visit in 2022 when the President of Uzbekistan, Shavkat Mirziyoyev, traveled to the Kingdom and met with the Crown Prince. During that visit, many agreements and memorandums of understanding were signed – both at the government level and at the private sector level. President Mirziyoyev also visited the Kingdom again in 2023, which has pushed both countries to an even stronger position in bilateral relations.

He also mentioned how the two countries have been giving each other power – literally.

“The Saudi ACWA Power is the largest company investing in the field of electricity and renewable energy sources; the company’s investments in Uzbekistan will reach $15 billion, so the company’s investments will become the largest outside the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” Al-Otaibi added.

ACWA Power has also contributed significantly to the modernization of Uzbekistan’s infrastructure.

Al-Otaibi’s next plan is to seek cooperation with officials in Uzbekistan to create suitable conditions to attract fresh Saudi investments in the country. One promising avenue is the Islamic Development Bank, and the ambassador mentioned how it already plays a vital role in providing loans for the implementation of vital projects exceeding $2 billion.

“This is an important role of the bank in Uzbekistan, and it aims to contribute to the modernization of the infrastructure of Uzbekistan. I also would like to praise the role of the Saudi Development Fund; it has provided more than SR1 billion ($270 million) in the form of soft loans for vital projects,” Al-Otaibi told Arab News.

The ambassador affectionately referred to the blossoming friendship as “the two brotherly countries.”

He added: “Our countries are attaching great importance to the tourism sector and to its role in the economic, cultural and humanitarian aspects. Uzbekistan is modernizing its facilities and developing tourist places.”

He mentioned how Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Tourism’s physical presence in Samarkand for the UNWTO sessions demonstrated the Kingdom’s strong commitment to strengthening its travel ties, as well as investments, in the country.

“Uzbekistan is the historical, Islamic and scientific center of Central Asia. It is rich with its great Islamic heritage; it is where great scientists were born and who made a significant contribution to the enrichment of religious sciences, such as Imam Al-Bukhari, Al-Tirmizi, Al-Biruni, Al-Khorezmi, and others,” said the ambassador.

On the same day as the start of the UNWTO General Assembly on Oct. 16, Saudi’s leading low-cost airline, Flynas, upgraded its direct flight route to Uzbekistan. Initially, the company offered limited direct flights from Tashkent to Riyadh starting in 2021. This week, it changed its route and increased the frequency. Also, flights will go from Tashkent directly to Jeddah.

These moves will significantly increase the number of religious tourists.

“The direct flights between the two countries have reached more than 20 in a week. Five flights between Tashkent and Jeddah, three flights between Namangan and Jeddah — in addition to the flights from Uzbek Airlines. This will increase the number of Umrah pilgrims and those traveling for work,” Al-Otaibi said.

Early next year, things will get even easier for Saudi nationals to visit Uzbekistan.

“Citizens of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia will no longer need any visas to enter Uzbekistan, starting from Jan. 1, 2024. This will enable our welcomed guests from the Kingdom to remain in Uzbekistan for a month-long duration and we invite them to explore our rich land with its enriching Islamic history,” Anvar Abdukhalimov from Uzbekistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs told Arab News.

Also announced at this week’s UNWTO’s General Assembly – which happens every two years – it was revealed that Saudi Arabia would host the 26th session in 2025.

NEOM wraps up tour by showcasing investment opportunities in Hong Kong

NEOM wraps up tour by showcasing investment opportunities in Hong Kong
Updated 21 April 2024

NEOM wraps up tour by showcasing investment opportunities in Hong Kong

NEOM wraps up tour by showcasing investment opportunities in Hong Kong

RIYADH: Saudi megacity NEOM on Sunday wrapped up a tour courting Chinese investors with an event at its last destination, Hong Kong.

The event was organized in partnership with the Belt and Road Office under the Commerce and Economic Development Bureau of the government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.

The roadshow for NEOM traveled from Beijing to Shanghai to Hong Kong, where potential investors flocked to a chic museum to peruse eye-popping renderings in various stages of development.

A series of presentations by the NEOM leadership team led the event agenda, showcasing the progress and milestones of NEOM to date, as well as the partnership and investment opportunities available to the audience, according to an official press release.

A private showcase “Discover NEOM: A New Future by Design,” was one of the many highlights of the event, providing guests with an immersive experience that explored The Line, the 170-km-long city that will be the future of urban living; Oxagon, which is redefining the traditional industrial model; Trojena, the mountain resort of NEOM, and finally, Sindalah, a luxury island destination in the Red Sea that will be open to the public later this year.

NEOM CEO Nadhmi Al-Nasr said: “We would like to thank the finance and business sector for their support and contribution to the success of our tours ‘Discover NEOM.’ We enjoyed showcasing NEOM’s tangible on-the-ground progress and discussing the range of investment opportunities available to Hong Kong companies. We are looking forward to continuing to engage with our Hong Kong partners to meet our shared goals for a better future.”

NEOM’s Executive Director Tarek Qaddumi walked journalists through the exhibition at the M+ museum on Friday, talking up NEOM’s goal of balancing “nature conservation, human livability and economic prosperity.”

“NEOM is a very vast vision … It is an initiative that is probably the most exciting and the most forward-looking in the 21st century,” he said.

Hong Kong’s Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Algernon Yau said: “As an open economy and one of the world’s top financial, investment, and innovation hubs, Hong Kong stands ready to support Saudi Arabia in achieving its vision while bringing growth opportunities for Hong Kong. Saudi Arabia is a key player in the development of the Belt and Road Initiative.

“With our internationally-benchmarked professional services and talent pool, Hong Kong can provide support for projects, such as NEOM, along the Belt and Road countries.”

Discover NEOM Hong Kong is the latest stop for the global roadshow and follows events in key markets including Beijing, Shanghai, Seoul, Tokyo, Singapore, New York City, Boston, Washington, D.C., Miami, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Paris, Berlin and London.

The megacity is progressing alongside other major development projects launched as part of Vision 2030.

Saudi airports record 18% surge in flights, passenger numbers during Ramadan, Eid holidays

Saudi airports record 18% surge in flights, passenger numbers during Ramadan, Eid holidays
Updated 21 April 2024

Saudi airports record 18% surge in flights, passenger numbers during Ramadan, Eid holidays

Saudi airports record 18% surge in flights, passenger numbers during Ramadan, Eid holidays

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s airports recorded an 18 percent surge in the number of flights and passengers during the month of Ramadan and Eid Al-Fitr holidays compared to the corresponding period last year.   

According to a statement released by the General Authority of Civil Aviation, the Kingdom’s airports registered more than 12.5 million passengers during this timeframe.   

Furthermore, the report indicated that airports in the Gulf nation handled more than 86,000 flights during the corresponding period.  

It also revealed that during the same period, Saudi airports handled 100 cargo flights.

In terms of passengers per airport, King Abdulaziz International Airport was in the lead as it carried around 5.38 million travelers during the period mentioned above.

King Khalid International Airport came next with 3.23 million passengers, then Prince Mohammad bin Abdulaziz International Airport with 1.04 million travelers.

Meanwhile, the rest of the Kingdom’s airports combined carried as many as 2.85 million passengers in total.

In February, Saudi Arabia’s aviation sector continues to expand as GACA reiterates its commitment to boost air connectivity to over 250 destinations.    

During the authority’s participation in a session at the third symposium organized by the Riyadh Economic Forum, Mohammed Al-Khuraisi, the executive vice president of strategy and business intelligence at the authority, reviewed the main objectives of the National Aviation Strategy, the Saudi Press Agency reported at the time.  

This aligns with the Kingdom’s efforts to achieve the goals of Saudi Vision 2030, which aims for the Saudi aviation sector to become the top rated in the Middle East region. 

As part of his speech at the time, Al-Khuraisi highlighted additional goals of the strategy, including developing the infrastructure and operational procedures of airports, increasing the local market share of low-cost airlines, and enhancing the competitiveness of national carriers.     

Closing Bell: Saudi main index edges up to close at 12,518

Closing Bell: Saudi main index edges up to close at 12,518
Updated 21 April 2024

Closing Bell: Saudi main index edges up to close at 12,518

Closing Bell: Saudi main index edges up to close at 12,518

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Tadawul All Share Index began the week by gaining 15.87 points, or 0.13 percent, to close at 12,518.22.

The total trading turnover of the benchmark index on Sunday was SR6.39 billion ($1.70 billion) as 147 of the stocks advanced, while 76 retreated.  

The Kingdom’s parallel market, Nomu, also gained 232.50 points, or 0.87 percent, to close at 26,940.18. This comes as 35 of the stocks advanced while as many as 27 retreated.

Meanwhile, the MSCI Tadawul Index slipped 4 points, or 0.25 percent, to close at 1,571.11. 

The best-performing stock on the main index was Ash-Sharqiyah Development Co. The company’s share price surged 9.95 percent to SR21.44. 

Other top performers included Batic Investments and Logistics Co. as well as Saudi Ground Services Co.

The worst performer was Fawaz Abdulaziz Alhokair Co., whose share price dropped by 5.16 percent to SR11.40.

On the announcements front, Saudi AZM for Communication and Information Technology Co. announced its board’s resolution on approving the firm’s transfer from the parallel market to the main market and the appointment of Al Rajhi Capital as a financial adviser for the move.

According to a Tadawul statement, the transfer is subject to regulatory approval and depends on the fulfillment of all market requirements. Any material developments regarding the event will be announced as they occur, it added.

Saudi Automotive Services Co. announced the starting of a SR400 million project to gradually develop its locations over the next three years in accordance with regulations required for fuel stations and service centers issued by the Permanent Executive Committee for Service Centers and Fuel Stations. 

According to a bourse filing, the company is also planning to develop and improve services at its existing locations and add new benefits such as electric vehicle chargers, self-services, and AD LED screens.

The project is expected to contribute positively to sales growth and enhance customer experience and SASCO’s competitive position.

Furthermore, the undertaking will be financed through the company’s resources and the credit facilities signed with local banks.

Saudi food security drive receives boost with new Tadco partnership   

Saudi food security drive receives boost with new Tadco partnership   
Updated 21 April 2024

Saudi food security drive receives boost with new Tadco partnership   

Saudi food security drive receives boost with new Tadco partnership   

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s food security drive is set to receive a boost as Tabuk Agricultural Development Co., also known as Tadco, signs an agreement to construct high-tech greenhouses.  

In a statement released on the Saudi Stock Exchange, Tadawul, the company outlined the signing of a memorandum of understanding with the Saudi Greenhouses Management and Agri Marketing Co. The aim is to establish a cooperative partnership for constructing and managing greenhouses tailored to the Kingdom’s climatic conditions. 

High-tech greenhouses use technology to control conditions like temperature, humidity, light, and irrigation, optimizing plant growth and crop yield while conserving resources like water and energy. They may also integrate sustainable practices, such as renewable energy and efficient water management, to reduce their environmental impact. 

Under the terms of the agreement, the entities will also collaborate to develop the marketing system, conduct research on high-value varieties, and cultivate them in Saudi Arabia. Additionally, the release stated their aim to “maximize the benefit of products through manufacturing industries.” 

Last week, Tadco secured a partnership agreement with Topian, a subsidiary of the Saudi giga-project NEOM, to innovate fruit and vegetable production. 

The MoU, which aimed to leverage advanced agricultural technologies and practices to enhance domestic food cultivation, was signed between the two bodies to set up a hydroponic greenhouse facility at the company’s site in Tabuk, located in northwestern Saudi Arabia.   

Hydroponics is the method of cultivating plants without soil and utilizing minimal water resources. This type of production, designed for space efficiency, can grow fruits, vegetables, and flowers in half the time of traditional agriculture while using 90 percent less water.  

This will further support the Kingdom’s efforts toward sustainable food production practices.   

Under the terms of the MoU, Topian will contribute its expertise, handling key responsibilities such as the design, installation, and operation of the hydroponic greenhouse facility.    

Meanwhile, the deal will see Tadco taking on a pivotal role in facilitating the project’s success by providing essential support and resources.  

This includes identifying and allocating suitable agricultural land for the greenhouse, establishing distribution channels for product off-take, and providing infrastructure and labor assistance to ensure seamless project execution.  

Both partnerships underscore Saudi Vision 2030’s aim to enhance food security through increased domestic production and sustainable agricultural practices.   

This further highlights the nation’s dedication to green initiatives. For instance, in January 2021, Al-Jouf Agricultural Development Co. launched the largest greenhouse complex in the Kingdom, covering 12 hectares and utilizing cutting-edge hydroponic technology. 

Saudi firm WAJA Co. forms joint venture to produce EVs in Egypt 

Saudi firm WAJA Co. forms joint venture to produce EVs in Egypt 
Updated 21 April 2024

Saudi firm WAJA Co. forms joint venture to produce EVs in Egypt 

Saudi firm WAJA Co. forms joint venture to produce EVs in Egypt 

RIYADH: Saudi multi-sector firm WAJA Co., is set to establish a joint firm in Egypt to produce and manufacture electric vehicles, after signing a framework cooperation agreement.

The deal, inked with the Egypt-based military organization Arab Organization for Industrialization, meets the needs of the local market and exports abroad, according to the company’s statement to Tadawul.

In October 2023, Egypt was ranked 28th in a global e-mobility index, which reveals the country’s readiness to transition to EVs, Egypt Today newspaper reported, citing US consulting firm Arthur D. Little.

According to a report by the investment management firm Goldman Sachs, EVs could constitute nearly half, or 50 percent, of global car sales by 2035. This projection holds true despite the challenges faced by the sector, including competing market dynamics. 

Additionally, analysts predict that within five years following that date, a similar proportion of car sales will consist of more advanced autonomous or partially autonomous vehicles. 

Saudi Arabia has set a goal to transition 30 percent of all vehicles in Riyadh to electric by 2030. This target is part of a larger strategy to reduce emissions in the capital city by 50 percent, aligning with the country’s objective of achieving carbon neutrality by 2060. 

In January of this year, research firm Mordor Intelligence predicted that the Middle East and Africa automotive EV market size will be estimated at $3.33 billion in 2024 and will reach $9.42 billion by 2029. This sector is projected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 23.2 percent during the forecast period from 2024 to 2029. 

Governments in the region are increasingly emphasizing the promotion of eco-friendly vehicles and raising awareness about energy storage solutions within the renewable sector. These efforts are anticipated to stimulate growth in the market for EVs and related technologies in the foreseeable future. 

Faisal Sultan, vice president and managing director of Lucid Middle East, told Arab News in an earlier inteview that while the industry is still in its early stages of development, significant expansion is anticipated in the future, driven by a growing appetite among customers in the region for the best eco-conscious automobiles. 

“We are already on a path for electric vehicles to become a part of our daily lives, and Lucid is eliminating the most common barriers of ownership, including price, performance, and driving range,” Sultan said. 

EVs are appealing for their futuristic design, but one concern that potential buyers may consider is the need for more infrastructure to support these vehicles. 

In 2024, research firm Canalys predicts that the global EV market will grow by 27.1 percent, reaching 17.5 million units. 

As forecasts indicate exponential growth of the EV market, eco-conscious modes of transportation are no longer merely ambitions. The sector is rapidly evolving into a cornerstone of our lives, driving the nation toward a tomorrow that prioritizes sustainability and environmental responsibility.