AlUla’s rise drives economic growth and job creation

AlUla’s rise drives economic growth and job creation
AlUla’s emergence as an expansive archaeological, cultural, and tourism hub is a significant milestone in Saudi Arabia’s economic diversification efforts. (SPA)
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Updated 12 May 2024

AlUla’s rise drives economic growth and job creation

AlUla’s rise drives economic growth and job creation
  • AlUla on track to achieve 2 million visitors annually by 2035

RIYADH: Increasing visitor numbers to the cultural and tourism hub of AlUla is already delivering a boost to Saudi Arabia’s economy in line with Vision 2030 ambitions, experts have told Arab News.

Situated in the northwest of Saudi Arabia and covering around 22,000 sq. km, the Kingdom’s historic city also boasts a thriving agricultural sector that plays a pivotal role in its economic development.  

Built upon social, economic, and ecological principles, the Royal Commission for AlUla has outlined a strategic roadmap for the comprehensive development of the area, with the primary objective of assisting the Kingdom in diversifying beyond oil and contributing to the national gross domestic product. 

This strategy encompasses three main pillars: tourism, heritage, and nature; local community; and economic diversification. 

Phillip Jones, chief tourism officer at RCU, told Arab News: “AlUla is an integral part of the tourism objectives driven by Saudi Vision 2030. With AlUla’s regional economy primarily driven by tourism, by 2035, AlUla will contribute a cumulative SR120 billion ($31 billion) to the Kingdom’s GDP.” 

He said the RCU is following a “light-touch” tourism model to ensure the continued conservation of AlUla’s natural and cultural heritage.  

Jones also highlighted that AlUla hosted over 260,000 visitors last year, marking a 43 percent increase from the previous year, and projected that it would welcome more than 290,000 visitors in 2024. 

“We are also on track to achieve 2 million visitors annually by 2035.” 

Tourism infrastructure 

Across the Kingdom, the transformative economic impact of tourism is in full swing. 

In 2024, AlUla is poised to welcome two new hotels: Dar Tantora in the second quarter of the year and Hegra Boutique Hotel in the final quarter.  

These new additions will join Habitas and Banyan Tree, core hotels that opened in 2021 and 2022 respectively.  

Additionally, in the coming years, AlUla will also welcome AZULIK AlUla Resort, Sharaan Resort, and the International Summit Centre, among others. 

“AlUla’s emergence as an expansive archeological, cultural, and tourism hub, equivalent in size to Belgium, is a significant milestone in Saudi Arabia’s economic diversification and global outreach enhancement efforts,” Ali Haider, regional director for Middle East and Africa at Nomadic, a subsidiary of Fragomen, told Arab News. 

With AlUla’s regional economy primarily driven by tourism, by 2035, AlUla will contribute a cumulative SR120 billion ($31 billion) to the Kingdom’s GDP.

Phillip Jones, chief tourism officer at RCU

“As AlUla continues to develop, it is poised to attract a diverse range of visitors, both locally and internationally, in line with Saudi Arabia’s aim of attracting 150 million visitors by 2030 and having the tourism sector contribute $200 billion to the economy,” Haider added. 

This development comes as RCU recently launched its first global brand campaign – “Forever Revitalising” – which Jones described as the embodiment of their vision for AlUla. 

This showcases the commission’s commitment to not just preserving AlUla’s historical essence but also enhancing the region’s eternal appeal, according to the executive. 

“We will continue to see the economic benefits of smart, sustainable development as we welcome more international visitors with new international flights, new luxury accommodations, and our year-round activities and attractions,” RCU’s Jones reiterated. 

Haider emphasized how a surge in tourism will also lead to increased demand for ancillary services such as accommodation, transportation, tour guides, and dining establishments. 

“By investing in destinations such as AlUla, the Kingdom aims to reduce its dependency on oil revenue and create new, sustainable sources of economic growth as well as preserve and promote its cultural heritage,” the Nomadic executive highlighted. 

Workforce and talent acquisition

As the region undergoes development, there will likely be tangible improvements to the Kingdom’s broader talent acquisition and retention metrics across various sectors. 

“While increasing demand for tourism to destinations like AlUla will create jobs locally within the tourism sector and other supporting sectors, visitors to AlUla may also leverage their stay to visit other parts of the Kingdom, or even the broader region, and thereby broaden the economic impact of their visit,” Haider explained. 

He continued by stating that this could foster the development of lesser-known tourism destinations. Additionally, he mentioned that the global uptake of “bleisure travel” might result in visitors staying in the Kingdom for longer periods and potentially exploring the local business landscape.  

He emphasized that due to several recent enhancements, this was more attractive than ever. 

Bleisure travel refers to the blending of business and leisure activities within a single trip. 

“Furthermore, AlUla’s potential to attract international talent will facilitate knowledge exchange and collaboration, leading to the transfer of skills and expertise to the local workforce,” Haider underlined. 

He pointed out that the Kingdom’s ambitious target of creating over 1 million jobs within the tourism industry by 2030 reflects its commitment to leveraging both local and global talent to drive economic growth in multiple ways. 

Additionally, he explained that creating those jobs “hinges on effective implementation strategies and sustained investment in infrastructure and human capital development.”  

Saudi Arabia also has one of the youngest populations globally, with 63 percent of Saudis under the age of 30. 

“The youth represent a significant advantage for the country’s diversification ambitions, offering a skilled, innovative, and cost-effective workforce. Additionally, it fosters entrepreneurship and accelerates technology adoption over the long term,” he emphasized. 

Haider also highlighted how the fresh perspectives and digital proficiency of this demographic have the potential to propel the growth and competitiveness of Saudi Arabia’s economy on a global scale. 

“Considering the Kingdom’s proactive approach to tapping into international talent pools – as evidenced by the recently enhanced Premium Residency Permit scheme – as well as its broader commitment to economic diversification coupled with AlUla’s strategic significance as a tourism destination, there is optimism that this initiative will contribute significantly to job creation,” he explained.  

From RCU’s perspective, the people of AlUla are at the center of their strategy, and they are among the primary beneficiaries of the diversified economy. 

“In the process, we expect to create around 40,000 new jobs by 2035, which will be filled mainly by talent from AlUla and across Saudi Arabia,” Chief Strategy and Digital Officer at RCU, Waleed Al-Dayel, told Arab News. 

He added that RCU has already created “thousands of new jobs, trained thousands of Saudis in critical job skills to match the requirements of the new positions, provided language training and scholarships, and reduced the local jobless rate by more than half.”

Sustainable destination  

There is no doubt that AlUla also plays a vital role in sustainability. 

Al-Dayel explained that RCU’s development of the city into a world-class sustainable destination for tourism and investment was guided by the 12 principles of the AlUla Sustainability Charter, aligning with the goals of Saudi Vision 2030 and the Saudi Green Initiative. 

The executive further elaborated on the increasing number of initiatives registered with the Saudi Ministry of Energy and Ministry of Environment, Water, and Agriculture. These are specifically focused on key sustainable growth initiative objectives. 

“RCU’s comprehensive vision is transforming AlUla into a global sustainable destination where our community of residents, tourists, and future generations can thrive,” Al-Dayel highlighted. 

In terms of transport strategy, the governorate’s residents and visitors prioritize eco-friendly options in line with the AlUla Sustainability Charter, as well as the national transport strategy’s aim to enhance the quality of life through improved transport services. 

Al-Dayel also shed light on how RCU is developing a future transport model for AlUla, with a low-carbon tram line at its core, surrounded by pedestrian, equestrian, and biking trails. This model also supports the needs for individual vehicles and freight. 

“When combined with the increase in open green spaces and revitalized urban design, the future of transport in AlUla will greatly contribute to the improved quality of life,” he concluded.

Saudi airline flynas named Best Low-Cost Airline in the Middle East for 7th consecutive year

Saudi airline flynas named Best Low-Cost Airline in the Middle East for 7th consecutive year
Updated 24 June 2024

Saudi airline flynas named Best Low-Cost Airline in the Middle East for 7th consecutive year

Saudi airline flynas named Best Low-Cost Airline in the Middle East for 7th consecutive year

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s flynas has been named the Best Low-Cost Airline in the Middle East for the seventh time in a row by a leading industry body.

The carrier was also ranked in the top three low-cost airlines in the world by the International Skytrax Organization, the global authority for assessing airline performance. 

Bander Al-Mohanna, CEO of flynas, received the gong for the firm’s Middle East ranking during the annual Skytrax Awards ceremony held in London. 

“Consolidating our position among the top four in the low-cost aviation sector worldwide and being named the Best LCC in the Middle East for the seventh time in a row, according to Skytrax awards, is a success in the name of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” Al-Mohanna said 

“The Kingdom is at the forefront of the world's countries in various fields, especially in the travel, tourism, and aviation sectors, which have received significant attention and goals of Saudi Vision 2030,” he added. 

Al-Mohanna attributed the achievement to the enduring loyalty of their guests, the dedication of their team, and the tremendous support that all Saudi companies enjoy from the government.

“Scooping the award for the seventh time in a row reflects flynas’ persistent commitment to excellence in products and services within the expansion and growth plan we launched under the slogan ‘We Connect the World to the Kingdom,’” he added. 

Al-Mohanna explained that this aligns with the objectives of the National Civil Aviation Strategy, which aims to enable national air carriers to connect the Kingdom with 250 international destinations, accommodate 330 million passengers, and host 100 million tourists yearly by 2030.  

He also noted that it supports the objectives of the Pilgrims Experience Program to facilitate access to the Two Holy Mosques. 

Skytrax Awards are decided yearly by passenger votes through comprehensive surveys and are among the most coveted awards in the aviation industry worldwide. 

Flynas connects more than 70 domestic and international destinations with over 1,500 weekly flights, aiming to reach 165 destinations, in line with the objectives of Saudi Vision 2030.

World Bank approves $700m financing for Egypt

World Bank approves $700m financing for Egypt
Updated 24 June 2024

World Bank approves $700m financing for Egypt

World Bank approves $700m financing for Egypt

CAIRO: The World Bank has approved $700 million in financing to support Egypt’s private sector, economic resilience and green growth.

The Development Policy Financing operation is designed to help Egypt address short-term economic challenges while advancing structural reforms to spur private sector growth.

It also aims to hasten Egypt’s green transition, including by scaling up renewable energy and increasing efficiency in the electricity, water and sanitation sectors.

Egypt’s minister of international cooperation, Rania Al-Mashat, said: “The government of Egypt is undertaking ambitious economic and structural reforms aimed at creating a more competitive, green and private sector-led economy.

“Through this budget support instrument, the DPF with the World Bank helps advance policy reforms on three of its top national priorities: Building macro-fiscal resilience, enhancing economic competitiveness and improving the business environment, and supporting the green transition.

“Our longstanding partnership with the World Bank underpins the realization of Egypt’s development and reform efforts.”

The DPF is the first in a series of three operations.

It will advance key reforms, including strengthening governance for state-owned enterprises, empowering the the Egyptian Competition Authority, ensuring accuracy in payroll taxes, scaling up renewable energy and launching a voluntary carbon credit market regulatory framework.

In March, the World Bank Group announced a three-year $6 billion program to support Egypt.

“Creating good, sustainable jobs and building resilience to climate change are critical for the current and future prosperity of Egypt’s citizens — especially the poor and vulnerable,” said Stephane Guimbert, World Bank country director for Egypt, Yemen and Djibouti.

“Reforms supported by this operation are an important step toward a more sustainable, inclusive economy,” he added.

Egypt’s Ministry of International Cooperation said that the DPF is aligned with the World Bank and Egypt’s Country Partnership Framework for FY2023-FY2027.

The framework is based on research by the World Bank Group on Egypt, including the Country Private Sector Diagnostic and the Country Climate and Development Report.

Of the $700 million in the DPF, $200 million is contingent on complementary financing from development partners.

The ministry added that the DPF aligns with Egypt’s development priorities and national strategies, including the Sustainable Development Strategy Vision 2030, the State Ownership Policy, the National Climate Change Strategy 2050, and the Nexus of Water, Food and Energy.

Saudi Arabia launches world’s largest renewable energy geographic survey

Saudi Arabia launches world’s largest renewable energy geographic survey
Updated 24 June 2024

Saudi Arabia launches world’s largest renewable energy geographic survey

Saudi Arabia launches world’s largest renewable energy geographic survey

RIYADH: The world’s largest renewable energy survey will take place in Saudi Arabia, it has been announced – with the installation of 1,200 measuring stations.

The Kingdom’s Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz Al-Saud inaugurated the Geographic Survey Project for Renewable Energy, stating that it is unprecedented in its scope and aims to pinpoint optimal sites for  solar and wind power initiatives across the Kingdom, according to an official release. 

The minister highlighted the project’s global significance, stating that no other country has undertaken a geographic survey of this magnitude. 

The undertaking, part of the National Renewable Energy Program, will conduct an extensive geographic survey covering over 850,000 sq. km, with contracts awarded to Saudi companies. 

This area, excluding populated regions, sand dunes, and airspace restrictions, is equivalent to the combined landmasses of the UK and France or Germany and Spain. 

The survey will identify the best locations for renewable energy development based on resource availability and strategic priorities.

The initiative will contribute to achieving the Kingdom’s goal of having renewable power sources make up about 50 percent of the energy mix for electricity production by 2030. 

It will also support the nation’s Liquid Fuel Displacement Program, which aims to displace 1 million barrels per day of liquid fuels across utilities, industry, and agriculture sectors by 2030.

Starting in 2024, Saudi Arabia plans to launch new renewable energy projects with an annual capacity of 20 gigawatts, aiming to reach between 100 and 130 GW by 2030, depending on electricity demand. 

The project’s initial phase will involve deploying stations across the designated areas to gather comprehensive data. 

These stations will then be relocated to identified sites for permanent installation, providing continuous data collection. 

Solar energy measurement stations will record Direct Normal Irradiance, Global Horizontal Irradiance, Diffuse Horizontal Irradiance, dust and pollutant levels, albedo, ambient temperature, rainfall, humidity, and atmospheric pressure. 

Wind energy stations will measure wind speed, direction, temperature, pressure, and humidity at heights up to 120 meters. 

Data collection will employ the latest technologies and adhere to global quality standards. 

A platform by the ministry will monitor, record, and transmit the information, using artificial intelligence to assess and rank sites for renewable energy projects. 

The minister noted that the accuracy and continuous updating of the project’s data make it financeable in accordance with the requirements of relevant local and international institutions.

He added that this will contribute significantly to the immediate allocation of land lots for renewable energy projects and expedite initiative announcement and execution, after coordination with relevant authorities.

The undertaking aims to reduce the current 18 to 24-month waiting period for data acquisition, minimizing risks and enhancing investment attractiveness in the renewable energy sector, he added. 

The minister further stated that this project reaffirms Saudi Arabia’s commitment to its ambitious renewable energy targets, including producing and exporting eco-friendly energy and clean hydrogen.

Saudi Arabia and UK strengthen sustainable infrastructure collaborations at London summit

Saudi Arabia and UK strengthen sustainable infrastructure collaborations at London summit
Updated 24 June 2024

Saudi Arabia and UK strengthen sustainable infrastructure collaborations at London summit

Saudi Arabia and UK strengthen sustainable infrastructure collaborations at London summit

RIYADH: Collaborations in city development, green technologies, and infrastructure financing were discussed by officials from Saudi Arabia and the UK at a special event in London.

The UK-Saudi Sustainable Infrastructure Summit, held on June 24, brought together over 250 leaders from the industry and financial sectors of both countries, along with key representatives from major giga-projects. 

This follows robust bilateral relations, with both countries signing an agreement in late 2022 to enhance cooperation on green finance, as Saudi Arabia increasingly seeks ethical funding for its transformative giga-projects. 

The Kingdom has committed to ambitious climate goals, including a target to reduce carbon emissions by 278 million tonnes annually by 2030 and to increase renewable energy generation capacity by 50 percent. 

The Lord Mayor of the City of London Alderman Professor Michael Mainelli said: “This summit offers an excellent platform to adopt and share knowledge gained from Saudi Arabia’s ambitious Vision 2030 sustainable development plans. Saudi Arabia is investing more in infrastructure than any other country in the Middle East region, including in 14 new giga-projects.”   

He added: “This investment, combined with the City of London’s expertise and leadership in sustainable finance, can set a global template for sustainable development.” 

The summit, organized by the Saudi British Joint Business Council in collaboration with the City of London Corp. and hosted at Plaisterers’ Hall in London, centered on discussions about urbanization, sustainable city development, and financing strategies, highlighting the expansion of green technologies and renewable energy solutions. 

The event was attended by a high-level Saudi delegation led by the Ministry of Investment and the Federation of Saudi Chambers. It builds on prior SBJBC and COLC gatherings, reinforcing the established Saudi-UK dialogue on clean energy development and decarbonization in the business sector. 

It also follows the recent Great Futures event held by the UK in Riyadh, underscoring increasing participation by UK companies in Saudi Vision 2030 initiatives aimed at transforming economic sectors and advancing giga project development. 

The event, supported by lead sponsors NEOM and Saudi Awwal Bank, underscores the importance of UK-Saudi cooperation in developing sustainable infrastructure and advancing the green transition. 

“I’m delighted to host this crucial summit. Sustainable infrastructure around the world is essential to tackling climate change, boosting economic development, and ensuring access to vital provisions such as transport, energy, and water,” said Mainelli. 

The panels delved into bridging the investment gap, utilizing smart urban planning for resilient and livable communities, and expanding initiatives in green technology and renewable energy. 

Closing Bell: Saudi Tadawul closes in the red across all indexes 

Closing Bell: Saudi Tadawul closes in the red across all indexes 
Updated 24 June 2024

Closing Bell: Saudi Tadawul closes in the red across all indexes 

Closing Bell: Saudi Tadawul closes in the red across all indexes 

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Tadawul All Share Index slipped on Monday, losing 32.93 points, or 0.28 percent, to close at 11,697.04.       

The total trading turnover of the benchmark index was SR8.6 billion ($2.3 billion), as 115 of the listed stocks advanced while 109 retreated.  

The Kingdom’s parallel market Nomu dropped 47.75 points, or 0.18 percent, to close at 26,777.87. This comes as 21 of the listed stocks advanced while as many as 33 retreated. 

Similarly, the MSCI Tadawul Index also dropped 5.07 points, or 0.34 percent, to close at 1,470.61.  

TASI’s best-performing stock of the day was Miahona Co. The company’s share price surged 9.93 percent to SR23.46.     

Other top performers include Etihad Atheeb Telecommunication Co. as well as Jazan Development and Investment Co., whose share prices soared by 7.88 percent and 6.92 percent to stand at SR91.70 and SR15.46, respectively.   

Additional top performers include Salama Cooperative Insurance Co. and Electrical Industries Co. 

The worst performer was Fawaz Abdulaziz Alhokair Co., whose share price dropped by 5.99 percent to SR8.32.    

Other firms to see a drop were Mouwasat Medical Services Co. as well as ACWA Power Co., whose share prices dropped by 3.69 percent and 3.56 percent to stand at SR120.20 and SR351.80, respectively.   

Additional falling performers include Theeb Rent a Car Co. and Dr. Sulaiman Al Habib Medical Services Group.     

In Nomu, Osool and Bakheet Investment Co. was the top gainer, with its share price rising by 16.80 percent to SR60.50.    

Other strong performers in Nomu were Mohammed Hadi Al Rasheed and Partners Co. as well as Al Mohafaza Co. for Education, whose share prices soared by 7.58 percent and 6.50 percent to stand at SR35.50 and SR20, respectively.   

Other top gainers include Future Care Trading Co. and Saudi Lime Industries Co.  

Mulkia Investment Co. was the major faller on Nomu, as its share price dropped 9.80 percent to SR31.30.    

The share prices of Alwasail Industrial Co. as well as Lana Medical Co. also fell by 4.68 percent and 4.47 percent to stand at SR2.65 and SR33.10, respectively.   

Other major losers include Saudi Top for Trading Co. and Jahez International Co. for Information System Technology.