Saudi Arabia expands access for Chinese tourists with new agreement

Saudi Arabia expands access for Chinese tourists with new agreement
Saudi Tourism Minister Ahmed Al-Khateeb signed the agreement. X/@SaudiTourism
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Updated 24 June 2024
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Saudi Arabia expands access for Chinese tourists with new agreement

Saudi Arabia expands access for Chinese tourists with new agreement

RIYADH: Chinese tourist groups will now find it easier to visit Saudi Arabia following the implementation of the Approved Destination Status arrangement, effective July 1.      

This initiative marks a key step toward the Kingdom’s goal of positioning China as its third-largest source market for international arrivals by 2030, according to a statement.     

The agreement aligns with Saudi Arabia’s goal of attracting 5 million Chinese tourists by 2030, facilitated by new direct flights from Air China, China Eastern, and China Southern, alongside existing Saudia flights.   

Moreover, it highlights the Kingdom’s commitment to strengthening its economic ties with China, leveraging opportunities in the tourism sector, and promoting mutual understanding, cooperation, and economic growth between the two nations.   

The Kingdom’s Tourism Minister Ahmed Al-Khateeb said the agreement “demonstrates Saudi Arabia’s readiness for Chinese visitors.”  

He added: “The Saudi Tourism Authority has played a crucial role in visa facilitation, reduced fees, improving air connectivity, and ensuring destination readiness with Mandarin-language information available on www.visitsaudi.cn, Mandarin signage at airports, and Mandarin-speaking tour guides and hotel staff.”   

China’s ADS policy is a bilateral agreement between countries that allows its citizens to travel to specific overseas destinations for tourism purposes in organized groups.  

It was first introduced in the early 1990s to accommodate the growing interest of Chinese citizens in international travel and the increase in disposable income among the population.    

“By strengthening bilateral ties with China, the ADS agreement opens doors for economic development across sectors, benefiting both nations,” added Saudi Arabia’s Ambassador to China Abdulrahman bin Ahmed Al-Harbi. 

CEO of Saudi Tourism Authority Fahd Hamidaddin said that the Kingdom’s approval as a tourist destination for Chinese visitors reflects Saudi Arabia’s continuous efforts and participation in trade shows and conferences, leading to agreements with Chinese organizations. 

He added: “We strive to provide a seamless, enjoyable, and safe experience for Chinese tourists, including streamlined visa procedures, increased flight capacity, and Mandarin integration across airports, destinations, tourist sites, and digital platforms like the ‘Visit Saudi’ website.”

The CEO highlighted that partnerships with trusted Chinese brands such as UnionPay, Trip.com, Huawei, and Tencent further enhance the authority’s offerings. 

In February, top officials from both countries convened for a high-level meeting in Beijing, focusing on investment opportunities, technology transfer, and enhancing economic cooperation. 

The Saudi delegation, led by Abdulaziz Al-Duailej, president of GACA, visited the Asian country to hold a joint roundtable meeting, exploring cooperation in connectivity and discussing partnership aspects across various areas. 

During the visit, the Kingdom’s representatives emphasized the substantial investments in the sector and reiterated Saudi Arabia’s openness to further opportunities. 


Saudi Arabia’s US treasury bond possession increases 22.46% year on year to $136.3bn

Saudi Arabia’s US treasury bond possession increases 22.46% year on year to $136.3bn
Updated 19 sec ago
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Saudi Arabia’s US treasury bond possession increases 22.46% year on year to $136.3bn

Saudi Arabia’s US treasury bond possession increases 22.46% year on year to $136.3bn

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s possession of US treasury bonds increased to $136.3 billion in May, compared to $111.3 billion for the same month in 2023.

The figures mark a 22.46 percent year-on-year increase.

Data released by the US Treasury Department placed Saudi Arabia in 17th spot among the largest investors in such financial instruments in May.

The report revealed that the Kingdom held bonds valued at $135.4 billion in April, compared to $135.9 billion and $131.1 billion in March and February, respectively.

The figures illustrate Saudi Arabia’s growing influence in international financial markets, highlighting a keen understanding of leveraging sovereign wealth to secure and strengthen the Kingdom’s global economic position.

Moreover, Saudi Arabia is the only Arab and Middle Eastern country among the top 20 major holders of US Treasury securities.

A report published in January by the Saudi Central Bank, also known as SAMA, revealed that its investments in foreign securities stood at $1 trillion at the end of December 2023.

SAMA also has $361.75 billion as deposits with banks abroad, the report added.

The data analysis also revealed that Japan emerged as the largest investor in US bonds in May, with holdings totaling $1.128 trillion. China and the UK followed, with portfolios valued at $768.3 billion and $723.4 billion, respectively. 

Luxembourg claimed the fourth spot with assets valued at $385.4 billion, while Canada and the Cayman Islands secured the fifth and sixth positions with treasury portfolios worth $354.5 billion and $336.5 billion, respectively. 

Ireland attained seventh spot with treasury reserves worth $317.7 billion, followed by Belgium and Switzerland, with assets amounting to $313 billion and $290.4 billion, respectively.

France held the 10th position with treasury assets amounting to $283 billion, while Taiwan and India occupied 11th and 12th places with portfolios worth $263.3 billion and $237.8 billion, respectively.

The data collected is primarily from US-based custodians and broker-dealers. Since American securities held in overseas accounts may not be attributed to the actual owners, the department said, the data may not provide a precise accounting of individual country ownership of treasury securities.


Saudi capital market systems prove resilient during global tech outage

Saudi capital market systems prove resilient during global tech outage
Updated 27 min 22 sec ago
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Saudi capital market systems prove resilient during global tech outage

Saudi capital market systems prove resilient during global tech outage

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s capital market systems proved resilient during the global technical outage on July 19, which disrupted flights, broadcasting services, and essential services worldwide. 

The Saudi Capital Market Authority stated that it promptly coordinated with market stakeholders to mitigate the effects of the interruption, ensuring that operations remained unaffected.  

According to the CMA, its systems were fully operational and prepared to support investors during the trading sessions on July 21.

The outage, triggered by a software update from cybersecurity firm CrowdStrike, caused widespread disruptions across various sectors. 

In response, the CMA directed listed companies on the Saudi capital market to disclose any significant developments related to the incident. The market regulator emphasized that its technical teams are monitoring systems around the clock to ensure ongoing stability and business continuity. 

The Saudi Exchange also reassured investors of its system’s reliability and readiness to provide continuous service. 

On July 20, Saudi Arabia’s National Cybersecurity Authority stated that the impact of the outage on the Kingdom was limited. The authority also noted that it has implemented exceptional measures to monitor threats and cyber risks and to respond to any incidents. 

The Saudi Central Bank confirmed that its payment and banking infrastructure remained unaffected by the outage, emphasizing its adherence to international cybersecurity and operational standards.  

The apex bank also highlighted its commitment to regularly updating precautionary measures to ensure effective business continuity and the resilience of its banking and payment systems. 

The Saudi Data and Artificial Intelligence Authority also stated that its systems and those it hosts in the Kingdom were not impacted by the global technical failure. 

“SDAIA confirms that its systems and the national systems hosted by it in the Kingdom are not affected by the technical failure that struck most countries of the world today,” it stated in a statement posted on X. 

The incident has sparked renewed discussions about the importance of cybersecurity and resilience in critical infrastructure, with many organizations reassessing their strategies and safeguards to prevent future disruptions.

The Kingdom’s Vision 2030 underscores a robust commitment to advancing cybersecurity, with strategic investments aimed at enhancing digital infrastructure and safeguarding national assets against emerging cyber threats.


Alandalus Property commences $222m commercial center project in Makkah

Alandalus Property commences $222m commercial center project in Makkah
Updated 21 July 2024
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Alandalus Property commences $222m commercial center project in Makkah

Alandalus Property commences $222m commercial center project in Makkah

RIYADH: Saudi holy city Makkah is set to see a boost in its commercial infrastructure with Alandalus Property Co. commencing construction on an SR831 million ($222 million) project. 

In a statement to Tadawul, the Saudi-based real estate firm announced the start of work on a new commercial center in the Makkah Al-Mukarramah region, spanning over 50,650 sq. m. 

The center is designed to include 350 rental units, such as showrooms, retail spaces, hypermarkets, entertainment areas, and dining options. It will also feature parking facilities for 1,800 vehicles. 

Alandalus’ move underscores its commitment to enhancing Makkah’s commercial capabilities. This project follows recent expansions by UAE-based Lulu Group, which launched two new projects in Makkah and Madinah earlier this year. 

“According to the developer’s report, the optimal final engineering design for the project was chosen from a group of designs prepared by the most skilled engineering offices in the Kingdom,” said Alandalus in the Tadawul statement.  

It added that construction is underway with all necessary municipal permits secured, and the center is expected to be completed in the first quarter of 2027. 

The project is being developed by Masat Property Co., a joint venture between Alandalus and Buroj International, with Hamat Holding Co., in which Alandalus holds a 25 percent stake, overseeing construction. 

Funding for the project will be primarily sourced from bank loans, with supplementary contributions from the partners’ own resources. 

The ongoing development projects are set to significantly enhance infrastructure in Makkah and Madinah, supporting their transformation into leading hubs for business and tourism. 

In December 2022, the Makkah Chamber of Commerce, Madinah Chamber of Commerce, and the Islamic Chamber of Commerce, Industry, and Agriculture signed the Manafea agreement, aimed at transforming these holy cities into pivotal financial and business hubs in the Islamic world. 

In a separate update, Alandalus reported a 67 percent decline in net profit for the first quarter of 2024, falling to SR4.7 million compared to the same period last year.  

The drop was attributed to higher financing costs and increased expenses in the hospitality and office sectors.  

It added that consolidated revenue also decreased by 2.70 percent year-on-year to SR53 million, driven by a 6 percent decline in the retail and operations segment. 


Saudi-China financial markets enter new era with ETFs listed on Chinese bourses: PIF 

Saudi-China financial markets enter new era with ETFs listed on Chinese bourses: PIF 
Updated 20 min 59 sec ago
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Saudi-China financial markets enter new era with ETFs listed on Chinese bourses: PIF 

Saudi-China financial markets enter new era with ETFs listed on Chinese bourses: PIF 

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia and China’s financial markets will see a new chapter of connectivity with the recent launch of exchange-traded funds on Chinese bourses, according to Public Investment Fund Governor Yasir Al-Rumayyan. 

At the listing event in Shenzhen, Al-Rumayyan stressed that the ETF gives investors in Asia access to the Saudi equity market and its sustainable long-term growth driven by strategic economic transformation. 

Last week, two new ETFs focused on the Kingdom’s stocks debuted in Shanghai and Shenzhen. The feeder funds, operating under the Qualified Domestic Institutional Investor program, began trading on July 16, with both briefly hitting the 10 percent daily limit on their launch day. 

The first fund, CSOP Saudi Arabia ETF QDII, managed by China Southern Asset Management, is listed on the Shenzhen Stock Exchange after raising 634 million Chinese yuan ($87 million).  

The second fund, the Huatai-PineBridge managed CSOP Saudi Arabia ETF QDII, started trading on the Shanghai Stock Exchange after raising 590 million Chinese yuan. 

These new ETFs are among the first batch of funds in China able to invest in the Saudi Arabia stock market. 

PIF aims to attract foreign investors and deepen capital inflows into Saudi Arabia, continuing from the success of the CSOP Saudi Arabia ETF introduced on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange in November 2023. This fund, launched with an initial investment of over $1 billion, including a $500 million contribution from PIF, became the world's largest Saudi Arabian ETF. 

According to Abdulmajeed Al-Hagbani, Head of Securities Investments in the Middle East and North Africa Investments Division at PIF, the ETFs aim to address the needs of international stakeholders by allowing them to diversify their portfolios within the Kingdom’s market. 

He added that the Saudi capital market is focused on attracting new investors, noting that a diversified investor base is crucial for the market’s growth. 

The statement highlighted that these developments offer Chinese stakeholders new opportunities to invest in the Middle East’s largest market and establish a bridge for greater access to one of the world’s fastest-growing and most strategic markets.  

The statement added that, over time, these initiatives will also benefit individual investors in Saudi Arabia. 


Saudi Arabia launches competition for 5 licenses to boost mineral exploration

Saudi Arabia launches competition for 5 licenses to boost mineral exploration
Updated 11 min 17 sec ago
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Saudi Arabia launches competition for 5 licenses to boost mineral exploration

Saudi Arabia launches competition for 5 licenses to boost mineral exploration

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia has unveiled its largest mineralized belts to date, spanning 4,788 sq. km and including five new exploration licenses. 

Three of the permits, which were offered to local and global firms, are reserved for the Jabal Sayid site in Madinah.  

It covers an area of 2,892 sq. km and entails minerals like gold, silver, copper, zinc, and lead, according to a statement issued by the Ministry of Industry and Mineral Resources.  

The remaining two licenses pertain to the Al-Hajjar Site in the Asir region, which encompasses 1,896 sq. km and also includes gold, silver, copper, zinc, and lead. 

 

 

This initiative aims to accelerate the exploration and development of Saudi Arabia's mineral resources, valued at SR9.3 trillion ($2.4 trillion).  

This is in line with Saudi Arabia’s ambition to transform mining into a foundational industrial pillar of the country’s economy. It also aligns with the ministry’s goal to further bolster the sector and contribute to ongoing developments under Saudi Vision 2030.    

The statement further outlined the competition stages, which include pre-qualification, release of the information memorandum, proposal evaluation, and announcement of winners. 

Jarrah bin Muhammad Al-Jarrah, the official spokesman for the Ministry of Industry and Mineral Resources, noted that offering these sites will attract major international and local mining companies. This initiative is expected to contribute to the energy transition, empower other industrial sectors, and increase exploration spending in the Kingdom. 

This initiative is also expected to boost exploration spending in the Kingdom, enrich the national geological database with technical data, create new job opportunities, and foster sustainable economic growth. 

According to a report by MineHutte in collaboration with the Mining Journal, the Kingdom has experienced the fastest growth in mining sector investments globally.  

The report also revealed that, over the past five years, the Kingdom has led in developing a favorable regulatory and infrastructural environment for mining, and has improved its mining licensing index to become the second-best country worldwide in terms of licensing environment. 

Recently, the ministry introduced new incentives in collaboration with the Ministry of Investment, including support for companies with valid exploration licenses for less than five years, with a maximum value of SR7.5 million.