Saudi Entertainment Authority Vows to Introduce 200,000 Jobs

Jeddah- Saudi Arabia’s General Authority for Entertainment vowed to provide some 200,000 job opportunities and to contribute 133 billion dollars to the annual national income by 2030.

In May 2016, Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz ordered the formation of the authority in a move that was welcomed by many Saudis who demand more entertainment activities in the country.

More so, the announcement was made amid verification being given by the tourism authority on its sector creating another 300,000 jobs as well.

Dr. Hatem Samman, Executive Director of Strategy at the General Authority for Entertainment, presented a roadmap for the entertainment industry during an opening session of a Jeddah-held forum.

He stressed the importance of building an integrated system of entertainment services across all Saudi cities and regions according to a regulated framework and system of governance, activating and diversifying the role of the private sector.

Samman also pointed that a study covering recreational services provided in 14 Saudi cities has been carried out—research recommendations will help outline the best experiences available in the kingdom and help expand them nationwide.

He also called on the community to be patient with the body’s procedures.

“During this brief period, the Authority has succeeded in playing a pivotal role in organizing the various events in all the cities of the Kingdom, despite the challenges it faces in light of the lack of options for entertainment,” he added.

Secretary General of the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry Hassan Dahlan, who was the forum’s moderator, described the entertainment body as “the joy icon”.

The third session at the entertainment-oriented forum discussed the role of social media in promoting tourism and entertainment.

The fourth session dealt with the role of Jeddah Municipality in the development of the tourism and leisure industry.

Kingdom Adopts Saudizing Tourist Sector Occupations

Woman takes a selfie during during celebrations for naming Abha as 'Capital of Arab Tourism'

Riyadh- Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage (SCTH) announced that “only Saudis” are permitted to work in establishments that provide services of obtaining tourist visas – a step that would reinforce job opportunities for Saudis in the tourism sector.

SCTH decided to stop dealing with those unlicensed from the commission – it also launched the Arabic version of the website besides samples of Arabic applications.

On Wednesday, the National Center for Tourism Human Resources Development (Takamul) organized a workshop to chart out plans for monitoring the Saudization of tourism sector jobs in Saudi Arabia.

During the workshop, an introductory summary of the control plan was provided for Saudization of occupations in tourism activities like tourist accommodation and travel agency sectors. The workshop reviewed the supervisory procedures and the mechanism for monitoring settlement and related irregularities.

The workshop is part of the Takamul’s effort to Saudiaze tourist occupations and raise their proportions in tourist facilities in cooperation with the Department of Licensing, SCTH branches across the Kingdom and the Ministry of Labor and Social Development.

The ministry also participated through its legislation and regulations, and supported the control plan by activating its decisions on the professions reserved for Saudis only.

Takamul aims to achieve the rising Saudization rates in the tourism sector jobs in order to achieve the National Transformation Program 2020 index and ensure sustainability of Suadization in the tourism sector jobs, besides enhancing cooperation with the Ministry of Labor and Social Development in the field of monitoring of professions that are restricted to Saudis in the tourism and national heritage sectors.

The control plan is aimed at several tourism activities, like tourist accommodation, travel and tourism agencies, accommodation marketing facilities, tour operators, tourist guides, timeshare, tourism real estate units, and finally the convention and exhibition sector.

The workshop concluded with an agreement on an integrated mechanism, detailing the tasks required of the branch inspectors, the work machinery and the methods of controlling Saudiztion-related irregularities.

Red Sea Project: New Income Sources for Saudi Arabia


Riyadh – Observers have affirmed that the Red Sea Project which was launched on Monday by Vice Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques Prince Mohammed bin Salman will contribute in reinforcing the tourism and recreation sectors in the Kingdom, generating hard currency, attracting foreign investment and diversifying the economy and income sources.

Abdul Rahim Naqi, secretary general of the Federation of Chambers of the Gulf Cooperation Council, stated to Asharq Al-Awsat that the international Red Sea Project represents a significant step in the right direction and is expected to attract domestic, Arab, Gulf and international investments.

“Such a project would cement partnerships between the public and private sectors and would boost the tourism sector,” he added.

Nasser Al-Tayyar, deputy chairman and president of Al Tayyar Travel Group, told Asharq Al-Awsat that the endeavor “represents one of the most significant projects that the Kingdom needs right now. This is the second project of its kind and would have a huge impact on the Saudi economy.”

He added that the tourist project would reduce exporting hard currency and increase it instead. Tayyar also expected the project to create job opportunities and reinforce the craft industry sector and other economic activities.

Prince Mohammed announced on Monday the launch of the Red Sea international tourism project, which will be built in one of the world’s most beautiful and diverse natural spots.

It aims to develop exceptional resorts on more than 50 natural islands between the cities of Amlaj and Al-Jawh. It will break ground in the third quarter of 2019 and complete its first phase in the fourth quarter of 2022.

Saudi Arabia Expects to Gain $4 Billion Annually with Red Sea Tourism Project


Jeddah – Saudi Arabia has boosted its tourist status by launching a major project entitled, the Red Sea project, a few days after it announced the revival of the tourist visa.

The Red Sea project, launched by Vice Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz on Monday, will be implemented on one of the most beautiful and diverse natural sites in the world, in cooperation with the world’s largest hospitality companies to develop exceptional tourist resorts.

The project is expected to create as many as 35,000 jobs “once it is up and running” and contribute 15 billion riyals ($4 billion) to Saudi Arabia’s gross domestic product.

The project will cover 50 islands and 34,000 square kilometers — an area bigger than Belgium — between the cities of Umluj and Al Wajh. It will be developed by the kingdom’s sovereign wealth fund, with the first work expected to kick off in two years.

The Public Investment Fund, headed by Prince Mohammed, will inject initial investments into the project and start partnerships with international companies.

It said Monday it will provide the seed capital to develop the resort area, explaining that the new “semi-autonomous area will be governed by laws on par with international standards.”

The Fund said the project will attract leading names in the hotel business to “bring about the next-generation of tourism in a way that will open” Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea coastline to tourists from around the world.

The initial groundbreaking is expected in the third quarter of 2019. The first phase will be completed by the fourth quarter of 2022, including the development of hotels and luxury residential units, as well as all logistical infrastructure — including air, land and sea transport hubs.

The Fund added the Red Sea project will be built along 125 miles (200 kilometers) of coastline and is tailored toward global luxury travelers and those seeking wellness travel, a genre of tourism associated with personal well-being and health.

Russian Tourists Top List of Foreign Visitors to Turkey

Ankara- Russian tourists have topped the list of foreign visitors to Turkey in the first five months of this year, the Ministry of Culture and Tourism has said.

According to the ministry’s provisional data, a total of 8,762,509 visitors came to Turkey from more than 100 countries, including Russia, Germany, Iraq, Venezuela, Singapore, the Netherlands, Australia and Mexico, from January 2017 to May 2017. The number of foreign visitors in Turkey soared by 5.55 percent year-on-year.

Last year, the number of Russian tourists dropped significantly when Russia banned charter holidays to Turkey after one of its fighter jets was shot down by the Turkish military over the Syrian border in November 2015.

But the number of Russian tourists coming from Russia in the first five months of 2017 skyrocketed by 571.86 percent compared to the same period last year. 

A total of 928,376 Russian tourists visited Turkey between January and May 2017. Russia was followed by Georgia with 874,955 tourists, Germany with 863,572 tourists, Iran with 774,010 tourists and Bulgaria with 638,409 tourists. A total of 396,515 people visited Turkey from the UK, 316,252 from Ukraine, 243,421 from Azerbaijan, 239,996 from Iraq, 205,931 from the Netherlands and 204,806 from Greece from January to May.

Saudi Arabia, France, Romania, Israel, and the US were among the countries from where more than 100,000 tourists came to Turkey.

Meanwhile, British authorities informed Turkey that they will lift restrictions on large electronic devices being carried as cabin luggage on direct flights from Turkey.

A ban on carrying such devices aboard US-bound passenger aircraft was ended for Turkish Airlines flights from Istanbul in early July.

Jordan’s Tourism Income Up 14.5% in Six Months


Amman- The Central Bank of Jordan (CBJ) said on Sunday that the kingdom saw a rise in tourism revenues by 14.5% during the first half of the year to a total of $2.1 billion.

In a press release, the CBJ attributed the rise in the sector’s income to the growth in the number of tourists by 9.9% year-on-year.

The Royal Jordanian Airlines lately said that the US National Security Agency (NSA) allowed Jordanian passengers heading to the United States to carry their electronic devices during all flights leaving Amman to New York, Chicago, and Detroit starting 9/July/2017.

The company said in a statement that in light of the NSA decision, which will rapidly enter into force, all Jordanians traveling from Queen Alia International Airport, Amman, to the United States will be able to take their laptops, tablets, cameras and other devices on board.

These devices will undergo accurate examination and inspection procedures that respond to the US security standards applied on all the airline flights from all across the world.

In March, the US authorities have issued a decision to ban travelers coming to the US territories from ten airports in eight countries of the MENA and Gulf regions from carrying electronic devices on board. Those countries are Egypt, Morocco, Jordan, UAE, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, and Turkey.

In the same context, Stefan Pichler, president and CEO of the Royal Jordanian Airlines stressed on the company’s keenness to provide the best land and air services for its travelers, saying that the food served on the company’s flights is considered among the airline’s top quality since its establishment.

This is expected to raise Jordan’s tourism rates, along with its foreign reserve, which declined 10.7% in the end of May compared to the same period in 2016.

Jordan’s foreign reserve dropped to $11.5 billion by the end of May, compared to $12.88 billion by the end of 2016.

The foreign reserve in Jordan started its drop since the beginning of 2016 driven by the decline of foreign investments, migrants’ transfers, and tourism revenue considered an important resource in enhancing the Kingdom’s reserve.

On June 1, the unemployment rate raised to 18.2% Q1 2017, compared to 15.8% in Q4 2016.

According to the official figures released by the Jordanian statistics department, unemployment rate in the first quarter of 2016 was 14.6%.

Economists doubt these official figures and suggest that the effective unemployment levels are higher. Providing employment opportunities for youths is among the Jordanian government’s priorities aiming to enhance growth.

Abu Dhabi Named Second Best City in the World after New York


Abu Dhabi, London – Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates, has been named the second best city in the world to live, work and do business in, overtaking London, Paris, and other major cities, according to the Ipsos City Index.

For this survey, Ipsos interviewed over 18,000 people, aged between 16 and 64, in 26 countries worldwide, and showed that New York retained the number one spot.

The leading destinations were chosen from an overall list of 60 cities, including major hubs like Sydney, Hong Kong, Cape Town, Moscow, Toronto and many more.

The results highlighted that 21 percent of survey participants listing Abu Dhabi as a top city to do business, just 2 percent below New York. Abu Dhabi ranked highest among participants from the three youngest generations — Generation X, Millennials and Generation Z, which were all consistent in placing New York and Abu Dhabi as their top two cities.

Commenting on the results, Saif Saeed Ghobash, director general of TCA Abu Dhabi, said: “The rise of Abu Dhabi in this global ranking is testament to the ongoing efforts to establish the emirate as not only a tourist destination of distinction, but a location that international communities want to work, live and do business in. Its distinct popularity among the younger generations highlights the need for global cities to diversify and innovate to sustain their position and strength as business and tourism hubs.”

“With the ongoing rise of tourism in Abu Dhabi we are confident that its international reputation will grow from strength to strength as more international visitors experience what the emirate has to offer. As we leverage the wealth of Abu Dhabi’s cultural heritage sites, such as the UNESCO World Heritage Site in Al Ain, and the forthcoming opening of the Louvre Abu Dhabi, we are confident that our position on the map of leading cities will continue to be cemented,” Ghobash added.

Between January and May, 2017, the UAE capital recorded nearly 2 million visitors, a 4 percent growth compared to the same period in 2016. Domestic visitors accounted for more than 600,000 hotel reservations across the emirate’s 167 hotels and hotel apartments in Abu Dhabi, Al Ain and Al Dhafra.

Adding to Abu Dhabi’s growing international appeal is the recent accolade of Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, which was ranked by travelers as the world’s second favorite landmark for the second year in a row by travel planning and booking website TripAdvisor.

Ipsos is a leading international market research firm, with a presence in 88 countries worldwide. Founded in France in 1975, Ipsos is controlled and managed by research professionals.

Russia Announces Lifting of Economic Sanctions against Turkey

Moscow- Russian authorities have announced the suspension of the ban previously endorsed on Turkish food exports to the Russian markets, along with a warning concerning tourism trips to Turkey.

But, the lifting excluded the exports of Turkish tomato, and discussions will be continued in this regard.

In the meantime, the Russian authorities haven’t suspended the ban of Russian-Egyptian flights, despite the Egypt’s assertion it has accomplished all the necessary procedures to secure aviation safety.

Discussions between Russian and Egyptian officials are ongoing in hopes for flights to resume during this summer’s tourism season.

President Vladimir Putin has inked a decree that suspends some economic procedures taken against Turkey, and mainly the latest presidential decree he signed on November 28 2015, in which sanctions were imposed on Turkey.

Those sanctions banned most Turkish products, halted the work of Turkish construction companies in Russian projects and banned Russian citizens from traveling to Russia. Those and many other procedures were adopted by Russia after the Turkish military shot down a Russian fighter jet over the border with Syria on November 24 of the same year.

Following the incident, Russian-Turkish ties froze for months, till a reconciliation meeting was held between the presidents of the two countries in August 2016. After this meeting, Russia began gradually canceling the punitive measures it took against Turkey.

In his last decree, Putin lifted restrictions on Turkish companies operating in Russia and ended a ban on employing Turkish workers in the country. He also partially restored a bilateral agreement on visa-free movement between the two countries.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the last presidential decree came based on the agreements held between Putin and Erdogan during their last talks in the city of Sochi in May. However, he noted that the export of Turkish tomatoes is still suspended.

Russia’s decision on maintaining the ban of Turkish tomatoe exports raised tension between the two countries; Ankara announced the cancellation of fiscal exemption on Russian cereals. However, it reconsidered its decision after the Russian sanctions lift and the agreement to continue discussions on tomato export.

Russian Minister of Agriculture Aleksandr Tkachyov said Russia produces over 800,000 tones of tomato annually, therefore, the country needs a market that provides it with 500,000 extra tons. However, within five or seven years, Russian producers will be able to fill the local demand.

The minister expected Russia to become a tomato exporter within seven years. For his part, Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich suggested that Moscow may resume the import of Turkish tomato for a limited season in line with the decline of the local product in the summer.

Moscow also announced that flights with Ankara have been resumed after the Turkish side adopted safety-guarantying procedures.

In July 2016, the Russian civil aviation authority announced the suspension of flights to Turkey following the turmoil driven by the failed coup attempt. However, this decision didn’t last long. During the tomato crisis between Moscow and Ankara last month, the Russian Federal Air Transport Agency released a memo to notify the political companies about the possibility of canceling all commercial flights (Charter) to Turkey. These flights depend mainly on transporting millions of Russian tourists to Turkish resorts. This warning had a limited effect on the travel to Turkey.

Finally, in line with the Kremlin and government decisions to suspend all the procedures taken against Turkey, the Federal Air Transport Agency released another decision in June to annul the warning concerning banning charter flights. The Russian market reacted positively with the annulment, and the demand on flights from Russia to Antalya and other Turkish touristm cities hiked.

Although all the new Russian economic punitive procedures against Turkey were suspended, the ban between Moscow and Cairo is ongoing and applies to private and governmental aviation companies.

The flight ban to Egypt was taken following the crash of a Russian airplane in the Sinai desert in 2015 due to a terrorist attack, which killed 224 tourists who were on board.

To resume flights between both countries, especially from Russia to Egyptian resorts, Moscow urged Cairo to improve its security measures in airports and resorts. Both parties formed technical committees to respond to the Russian request concerning security.

Russian sources talked about a possible resumption in flights, and many hoped the problem would be solved after the meetings held between Russian ministers with their Egyptian counterparts and President Sisi. However, those discussion didn’t lead to an agreement.

According to Russian newspaper Kommersant, Cairo is not yet ready to host Russian experts assigned to manage the security procedures, and believes such a move violates its sovereignty.

Tourism Campaigns in Tunisia Worth $9 Mn


Tunisia – The Tunisian Ministry of Tourism is preparing to launch campaigns to promote tourism in most European markets by the end of June 2017, with a budget of 23.7 Million Dinars (MD) (approximately $9 million).

A presentation on the preparations for the tourist season 2017 presented at a Cabinet meeting held on May 19, stated that the promotion campaign was organized on the Algerian market, during the first ten days of May with a budget of one million dinars.

The data provided by the Tunisian Ministry of Tourism showed an organization of 40 visits for 187 journalists and 31 prospecting visits for 1,128 representatives of travel agencies to promote Tunisian tourism in Russia, Poland and the markets of the Arabian Gulf (Sultanate of Oman, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Jordan).

An estimated budget of 950 thousand dinars was also allocated to the domestic tourism promotion campaign for the year 2017, in addition to participation in 69 fairs in various tourist markets in the first quarter of 2017.

An estimated amount of about five million of the Tourism Competitiveness Development Fund has been allocated to the air transport support program for the year 2017.

In regard of the inspection of the quality and safety of tourism units, 3,332 inspection visits were recorded in the first quarter of 2017, up to 32 percent compared to the same period in 2016.

During the cabinet meeting, emphasis was placed on the importance of ensuring the success of the tourist season, including in particular increasing the number of security patrols, especially on beaches, souks and cities.

Data showed that about one million 725 thousand tourists visited the country between January and May 10, 2017, compared to one million 260 thousand tourists during the same period in 2016, up to 37 percent, according to data on preparations for the current tourist season presented at the May 19 Cabinet meeting.

Tunisia remains the first destination of Algerian tourists, according to the same source.

Around 568.3 thousand Algerian tourists entered Tunisia during the period, up to 67.3 percent followed by Libyans.

As for tourists from Europe, their number has increased by 31 percent. The French remain the first European tourists to visit Tunisia with 137,000 tourists against 95,800 in 2016, with an increase of 43.7 percent.

The Germans came second, followed by the Italians.

Tourism Sector Thrives in Kurdistan


Erbil – For over three years, the Kurdistan region has been suffering from an economic crisis driven by the Baghdad-led embargo, drop in oil prices, war against ISIS and the increase of Iraqi refugees. Yet, its tourism sector has started to recover, said the General Board of Tourism of Kurdistan.

Last year, Kurdistan hosted over 1.6 million mostly Iraqi tourists, along with an increased number of foreign tourists compared to previous years.

On Thursday, the Kurdish capital Erbil hosted the first Middle East Tourism Expo 2017 with the support of the Ministry of Tourism and Municipalities and in cooperation with the General Board of Tourism. The event saw the participation of 200 companies, restaurants and hotels from 16 Arab and foreign countries.

The director of Erbil’s tourism authority, Mawlawi Jabbar told Asharq Al-Awsat: “Through this event, we sought to enhance tourism relations between companies, restaurants and hotels in Kurdistan and the world.”

“This will have a major impact on tourism in the Kurdish region in general and open doors for job opportunities in the sector in Kurdistan,” he added.

The region province has strong potential for tourism, as besides its security stability, it has thousands of historic monuments and a beautiful nature with many rivers, wells, mountains, plains and natural reserves. It enjoys a mild summer and the winter season offers tourists the chance to practice sports like ice skating.

Sales manager at Erbil’s Ankawa Royal Hotel Shirine Ibrahim said that the tourism sector in Kurdistan needs more attention.

She told Asharq Al-Awsat: “The economic situation in Kurdistan has improved and the number of tourists has increased over the past months. Kurdistan is a beautiful country and has great touristic areas. We hope that more attention will be shown towards the sector, because tourism means investment and a revived economy.”

The General Board of Tourism of Kurdistan revealed that along with the projects it implemented in the last months, it intends to organize dozens of new activities to stimulate the sector.

The board’s spokesman Nadir Rusti told Asharq Al-Awsat: “We organized an ice skating festival in January, a car race on ice in March, the Middle East Tourism Expo 2017 took place last week and more projects will see the light in the future.”

He highlighted the contracts which were inked by local tourism companies and with Arab and global firms on the sidelines of the Middle East Tourism Expo, adding: “Companies from the region inked 203 contracts and memoranda of understanding with global companies to attract tourists and activate the sector.”

The official also revealed that the revenues of the Kurdish tourism sector are generally poured into the markets, meaning the citizen and the private sector.

Citizen Ali Hamed, who comes from Baghdad, said that he visits Kurdistan every year with his family to enjoy its tourism and beautiful nature. He added that he likes the Kurdish heritage, art, and music and hoped the Kurdish government would exert more efforts to promote tourism in the region in order to attract more tourists every year.