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Travel & Tourism

SUPPLEMENT 10

Monday, June 3, 2013

SCTA sets out strategies to develop infrastructure

New visa packages likely to spur influx of tourists JEDDAH: P.K. ABDUL GHAFOUR ARAB NEWS STAFF

Saudi Arabia’s travel and tourism sector has achieved unprecedented progress in recent years as a result of a strategic government move to make it a major revenue-earning industry. Tourism has already proved its capability to generate thousands of jobs for its increasing number of university graduates. Prince Sultan bin Salman, president of Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA), deserves full credit for developing the sector by setting out strategies, enacting laws and regulations, establishing partnerships, launching new projects and developing the required infrastructure. In a recent statement, Prince Sultan commended the government for its support for tourism, saying it reflects the state’s belief in the importance of tourism as a key economic driver and creator of jobs for citizens. “Tourism is an important tool for achieving significant economic development and creating huge job opportunities,” he explained. The Council of Ministers recently adopted a series of decisions to strengthen the sector, including establishment of a specialized company for hospitality and heritage. Many other resolutions are expected to be issued in this

SAUDI ARABIA

Tourism bolsters Saudi Arabia’s job creation and diversification drive

Umrah-plus visas to boost domestic tourism

Tourism contributed SR 116 to Kingdom’s GDP in 2011

Saudi Arabia is replete with tourist attractions

670,000 people got

employed in the sector

bn

SCTA sets out strategies to woo international tourists

Graphic / Naser Ahmed

respect, reflecting government’s focus on rehabilitating historical, cultural and archaeological monuments. Prince Sultan highlighted tourism’s role in strengthening the national economy. “Tourism contributed SR 116 billion (5.4 percent) to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) and created 670,000 jobs in 2011,” he pointed out. Saudis represent 26 percent of the Kingdom’s tourism workforce. According to Sultan, tourism is the second largest employer in Saudi Arabia, a fact that goes well

with the government’s drive to fight unemployment among its citizens and create jobs for the thousands of graduates who pass out from some 35 universities and hundreds of technical institutes across the country. Saudi Arabia has huge potentials for tourism. In addition to the Two Holy Mosques in Makkah and Madinah that attract nearly 10 million pilgrims from around the globe, the country is replete with natural and historical wonders, from the mountain resorts of Taif and the marvelous Nabatean tombs to the

multicolored coral reefs of the Red Sea. Saudi Arabia has been a travel destination for centuries with millions of people visiting the Kingdom for Haj and Umrah. Now SCTA wants to promote non-religious tourism to market the country’s vast tourist attractions, from the turquoise waters of the Red Sea, the breezy mountains of the Asir region to the captivating beauty of the Empty Quarter. Industry experts have proposed that the Kingdom ease its visa procedures to make the market reachable to international tourists. At present tourist visas must be sponsored by licensed companies. Upon arrival, the licensed company must supervise the tourists. Tour guides are also required to pick up the tourists and ensure they exit from the country.

“We have the added advantage of the location of Saudi Arabia, its accessibility, the airports, the abundance of fuel, and the services,” the prince said. He emphasized SCTA’s plan to develop heritage sites across the Kingdom. “What’s changed is that we’re now moving to Islamic history sites to renovate them and make them more presentable.” Prince Sultan said the Saudi government was investing “a lot of money” in building and renovating about 30 museums and Islamthemed attractions in Makkah and Madinah. “There are a lot of heritage hotels being constructed in small villages with mud and stone, or whatever. We’re serious about reigniting the heritage of Saudi Arabia,” he pointed out. Saudi Arabia is spending billions of riyals on developing new and existing transport infrastructure. Work is currently being undertaken on 27 airports across the country to increase their capacity to 82 million passengers within the next three years. Two of the biggest challenges facing the Kingdom are youth unemployment and a need to diversify from an oil-based economy. A thriving tourism industry could help solve both. Tourism also brings with it a sustainable stream of service industry jobs, which can provide tremendous

Prince Sultan bin Salman

45 billion. The Kingdom is forecast to have 343,000 hotel rooms by 2015, up from 250,000 in 2011. Planning and Economy Minister Mohammed Al-Jasser has emphasized the role of tourism and antiquities sector in providing more jobs and strengthening the economy.

The country is replete with natural and historical wonders, from the mountain resorts of Taif and the marvelous Nabatean tombs to the multicolored coral reefs of the Red Sea. He pointed out that the government will make massive investments to boost the domestic tourism sector and work toward cutting down international tourism expenses.

thriving tourism industry within 20 years and has undertaken ambitious projects, such as the grand restoration project of the ancient mud-brick city of Al-Diriyah — the first capital of the Saudi dynasty, which is currently under way. The town dates back to 1744, and is of historic and touristic interest to many potential visitors, inside and outside of the Kingdom. The Kingdom has enchanting tourist attractions. Riyadh is the geographic and cultural hub of the country and its largest city. Once surrounded by mud-brick walls, modern Riyadh – whose name comes from the Arabic word for garden (rowdah) – is a contemporary city with an ever-expanding network of modern roads, high rises, residential suburbs and industrial parks. Despite being a modern city, Riyadh also retains much of its traditional appeal. The city’s historic Qasr Al-Hokm district has been carefully preserved and renovated to make it the city’s cultural, commercial and social center. Jeddah, the Kingdom’s second largest city, is a sparkling, modern commercial center that is considered one of Saudi Arabia’s most vibrant cities. It

We expect the sector would provide 841,000 direct jobs and 421,000 indirect jobs by 2015 and 1.2 million direct jobs and 591,000 indirect jobs by 2020. Prince Sultan recently announced that Saudi Arabia would soon drop its barriers to GCC residents and other foreigners who want to explore other areas of the Kingdom. “Soon, we will announce new visa packages for travelers to the Kingdom,” said the SCTA chief during a forum at the Arabian Travel Market (ATM) in Dubai. Saudi Arabia would issue this year ‘Umrah-Plus’ visas, which would permit supervised tours of other sites to those visiting the country on Islamic pilgrimages, he said. “The month long visa can also be used for tourism,” he said. Sultan hoped Saudi Arabia would be able to emulate some of Dubai’s success in becoming an East to West travel hub. “People can stop, perform Umrah, and connect from Madinah or Makkah. We also connect from airports like Riyadh, and Hail and Jazan,” he said.

Sword dance is one of the popular cultural events in the Kingdom.

economic growth, especially to industry-poor regions in the Kingdom such as Asir and Najran. A report published by the Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency (SAMA) said nearly 1.8 million people will work in tourism by 2020 — almost triple the number in 2011. A number of new hotels are being built in the Kingdom as it aims to boost tourism numbers and cater for the influx of pilgrims who travel there for the Haj and Umrah, the report said. “We expect the sector would provide 841,000 direct jobs and 421,000 indirect jobs by 2015 and 1.2 million direct jobs and 591,000 indirect jobs by 2020,” the report said. Total spending on tourism in the Kingdom reached SR 81 billion in 2011, according to SAMA. Of the total, SR 36 billion was from domestic travelers, up 6.1 percent compared to 2010. Foreign tourist spending rose by 73 percent to SR

“Saudi Arabia has natural resources, a variety of heritage sites, multiple facilities and a good infrastructure that can contribute to the tourism sector. This would support our GDP and provide employment opportunities, as well as raise Saudization rates,” said Al-Jasser. “The development of tourism in the Kingdom would also support two main objectives in the government’s development plan: Economic diversification and a balanced development between regions,” he added. “The amount of money citizens spend on tourism abroad underscores the need to improve local tourist attractions and make use of media to cover available tourist spots in the Kingdom,” he added. According to one report, Saudis would spend SR 40 billion this year on international tourism. The SCTA aims to establish a

is alive with more than 300 gardens, and is home to one of the world’s tallest fountains. One of Jeddah’s loveliest features is the Corniche; its promenades extend for miles along the Red Sea interspersed with parks, fountains, lakes and kiosks. Its coastal location near the spectacular Red Sea coral reefs makes it a popular spot for water sports. Located in the southwestern part of the Kingdom, Asir Province is an extensive region of steep mountains, lush greenery and cool breezes. The picturesque regional capital, Abha, is noted for its brightly colored mud houses, built in the traditional style. The resort city of Taif is located 5,600 feet above sea level in the southwest region of Saudi Arabia. Its pleasant climate, lush parks, sunny skies and exotic wildlife have long drawn Saudi families to this resort town each summer.


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Monday, June 3, 2013

SUPPLEMENT

Qatar Airways adds Salalah to growing route network

Amadeus expands partnerships with top travel agencies

riyadh: ARAB NEWS

Qatar Airways has commenced services to Salalah, joining Muscat as the airline’s second destination in Oman. Salalah, south of the Arabian Peninsula, becomes the Dohabased airline’s fifth new route of the year taking the carrier’s global reach to 127 destinations. With Muscat already served 31-times-a-week and the new foura-week services to Salalah, Qatar Airways now flies a total of 35 services to the Sultanate each week. The latest destination also heralds the first of three new Middle East routes to be launched by the carrier over the next few weeks with two Iraqi cities joining the network. Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al-Baker said the launch of

As one of the most beautiful places in the Gulf, affectionately known as the Perfume Capital of Arabia, has tremendous appeal for visitors across the Gulf.

JEDDAH: ARAB NEWS

Senior Qatar Airways executives with guests at the event.

Salalah flights demonstrated the strengthening relationship between the two Gulf states. “As one of the most beautiful places in the Gulf, affectionately known as the Perfume Capital of Arabia, Salalah has tremendous appeal for visitors across the Gulf, Europe, the United States and

many other countries, steeped in history, culture and natural beauty. Fathi Al-Shehab, Qatar Airways SVP of GCC, Levant, Iran, Iraq and Indian sub-continent, hosted a gathering of distinguished guests and local media at Salalah Airport ahead of the airline’s first depar-

ture flight to Doha. Dhofar’s Deputy Gov. Sheikh Abdullah bin Saif Al Mahrooqi was chief guest at the event, representing the government of Oman. Al-Shehab said it was a great honor for Qatar Airways to be so warmly welcomed to Salalah and thanked the government for its

continued support for the airline. Ali Abdul Khaliq Ibrahim, Qatar Airways country manager for Oman and Yemen, said: “Qatar Airways’ launch of flights to Salalah is good news for the traveling public from Oman who now have greater choice and more flying options.”

Amadeus Saudi Arabia has renewed partnerships with some of Saudi Arabia’s most prominent travel agencies, including Al Theyab Travel & Tourism, Portfolio Travel, Al-Ghazal Travel Agency and National Alia Travel and Tourism Co. Amadeus Saudi Arabia has thus reinforced its position as a major technology partner to the region’s travel and tourism industry. Under the renewed agreements, Amadeus customers will enjoy enhanced access to Amadeus’ vast portfolio of technology solutions as well as a range of air content, benefit ting particularly from Amadeus’ partnership with the Arab Air Carriers Organization (AACO). The partnerships will also enable Amadeus to support the growth of Saudi Arabia’s online travel sector through providing travel players access to its range of online solutions, web based services and stateof-the-art web booking interface. Ahmed Talib Al-Ghazal, general manager, Al-Ghazal Travel Agency, said: “Working with a professional and strong technology partner is essential in order for any travel agency to be able to focus on its core business objectives vis-a-vis saving

time and cost, improving productivity and better servicing customers to ensure their loyalty.” He said: “I have no doubt that our partnership with a leading content aggregator like Amadeus will enable us to improve our business and enhance our customer portfolio.” Amadeus also signed partnership agreements with eBreeze Travels/Flyin.com to provide web services that will assist the organization with online bookings both, air and non-air. eBreeze Travels/ Flyin.com is one of Saudi Arabia’s travel agencies that is committed to consistently evolving the online travel business and developing web portals for customers across the Middle East region. Faisal Alhomaidhi, vice president, eBreeze Travels/Flyin.com, said: “We enjoy a solid and established relationship with Amadeus and consider them as one of the main players in technology development in the region.” Alhomaidhi: “With more and more travelers looking online to book travel online, Amadeus’ webbased solutions and services will enable us to cater to the specific needs of these customers. Our partnership effectively compliments our efforts to boost the online travel sector in Saudi Arabia.”


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Monday, June 3, 2013

SUPPLEMENT

Kingdom famous for memorable destinations JEDDAH: RIMA AL-MUKHTAR ARAB NEWS STAFF

Can’t make up your mind on where to go this summer? Want to go somewhere new and exciting? Want to discover new places? Well, how about a road trip around the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. We recommend you to pack light and don’t forget your camera. We have chosen ten exciting destinations within the Kingdom that would make a great trip for the whole family.

Riyadh

Start with the Kingdom’s capital located right in the middle of Saudi Arabia. It is the hub of government offices, big corporations, factories and embassies, which makes it a popular destination for businessmen and job seekers. Riyadh is a blend of the old and the new, which is strongly reflected in the architecture and homes. You will enjoy shopping in the malls such as Centria mall for luxury brands, to local market such as Al-Zall market that features many locally-made products. Food and dining out is very enjoyable and the variety of restaurants is just amazing. Tourists will find interesting things to do from picnicking at the park to feeding animals at the zoo or even camping out in the Tihama desert. This place has something for everyone.

Eastern Province

This province's Alkhobar, Dhahran and Dammam, are known

as the 'Triplet Cities.' They are just about 20 km from each other and essentially form one big city. Half Moon Bay, with its many activities, is a must visit place. a) Alkhobar is a vibrant city with multiple lifestyle hubs and shopping centers. Its long, beautiful Corniche is lined with numerous international and local cafes and restaurants that overlook the Arabian Gulf. b) Dammam is an interesting city where one can enjoy a boat ride in the Gulf waters and do some fishing, swimming, diving and enjoy all the water activities. Explore the heritage village and learn more about the Saudi culture, then drive to the desert and ride a camel just like a typical Bedouin. c) Dhahran is as great as the two other cities but what makes it special is the oil company, Saudi Aramco, which is the first oil company worldwide. The Saudi Aramco Exhibit Center is a must-see place where you learn about the history of oil in Saudi Arabia and the origin of oil, oil extraction, and the oil industry.

Aseer

They call it the Bride of Nature. It is known for the colorful buildings and great weather. Located in the south of the Kingdom and mostly visited during the summer season, Aseer is an agricultural area known for olive trees, and honey, which is

known to be the best of its kind in the Kingdom, so don’t hesitate to take some with you back home. Local and open markets are very big in Aseer where tourists can find great deals from local products such as clothing, food and furniture. The farmer market is also a crowded place, especially on weekends and is a must-see to discover the local harvest. a) Rajil Alma: The stone-built village, stern guardian of a trade route now in disuse for a long time,nestled in the valley at the foot of Souda Mountain, was hewn, dressed and built with relatively crude tools out of the local rock. It required a huge amount of human effort to build it. Eventually it fell into disrepair and became part of history. It has been restored and preserved by the local community and has won the Prince Sultan bin Salman Prize for Preservation of Urban Heritage in 2006. b) Abha: Abha has established itself as the tourist capital of the region and displays all the trappings of the mass tourist trade. Cable cars, luxury hotels, amusement parks and some well-developed easily accessible tourist sites, all located in the cool mountains, which make it a popular summer destination for thousands.

Najran

When you arrive in Najran, it is

very hard not to notice the kind and peaceful people of Najran. They are very friendly and very protective of the visitors and guests. The artifacts of Najran reflect very rich traditions. Traditional clay houses in Najran are considered one of the most beautiful houses in the world. Najran offers adventurous travelers opportunities for hiking, rock climbing, walking, and trekking around the green land. Local-made handicrafts are attractive, which you will find in the open markets. You well see locals making soap, and designing clay, wooden and leather goods, accessories and more. You can also visit the National Museum, park and zoo to see the real story behind this location.

Jazan

It is known as the Kingdom’s Pearl of the South. The agriculture and greenery in this area is just remarkable and makes a perfect background for a picture. The islands and beaches of Jazan are also famous among locals who spend their weekends fishing and enjoying water activities and sports there. Farasan Island is one of the most famous islands in the south of Saudi Arabia, especially known for its Hareed, parrotfish, festival when swarms of this pretty fish appear in the shallow waters in the Al-Hasis gulf close to the Farsan Island. The fish gets its name from the numerous teeth that are arranged in a tightly packed mosaic on the external surface of the jawbones, forming a parrot-like beak.

The flower park in Taif

Tabuk

It is the perfect destination for those who are looking to spend their summer by the beach, natural desert or see cultural sights. Tabuk also offers many resorts, parks and adventures to the visitors. Tabuk is actually one of the few cities in the Kingdom where snow falls during winter and that’s when many locals head to the Louz Mountain to enjoy snow activities. The beaches are beautiful and offer tourists different activities such as water sports and fishing throughout the year in addition to camping, camel riding and feeding animals at the zoo.

Hail:

Those who are looking for desert adventure head for Hail. It is a perfect place for camping in the desert where you can enjoy many activities from hunting, camel riding to musical Bedouin nights. The city also pays close attention to history where old buildings still exist and locals are still holding on to their traditional clothing and food so if you want to learn more

about this area visit the Hail Museum.

Jeddah

It is probably the most famous city when it comes to tourism. When in Jeddah you must pay a visit to the downtown area, it is festive and full of life. There you will meet Jeddawis and expatriates who go there to shop, eat and meet. You will see Bai't Naseef, and enjoy Jeddawi food right next door. Visit the Jeddah Corniche to see the Jeddah fountain and have dinner at one of the restaurants viewing the beautiful Corniche.

Taif

Known as the City of Flowers, Taif has flower factories that produce oil, perfumes and rose water. Anyone can visit those factories. Locals head to Taif especially during the summer to escape from the heat and enjoy this city’s cool weather. Aside from flowers, Taif is known for the fruit harvest that is later collected and sent to all Saudi cities and sold in local markets. A

beautiful way to explore the area is to have a ride on the telepherque, mountain cable cars, where you can see the beauty of Taif. Families can enjoy an afternoon at the local park and zoo where they can picnic and feed the monkeys who are famous in this area.

Madain Saleh

Al-Hijr, whose ancient Nabatean name is Hegra, is the best known of the archaeological sites in Saudi Arabia. Otherwise known as Madain Saleh, the site has been the focus of attention for archaeologists over the last decade or so, not only because of the magnificent tombs and other monuments carved in the sandstone outcrops by the Nabateans, but also because of the wild desolate landscape in which it stands. Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Madain Saleh will inevitably attract increasing numbers of visitors over the next few years. The construction of a new airport under way near Al-Ula, the nearest town to the site, indicates a drive to develop the region.


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Monday, June 3, 2013

SUPPLEMENT

World-class products to How to survive a bolster domestic tourism long road trip RIYADH: GHAZANFAR ALI KHAN ARAB NEWS STAFF

As part of a comprehensive drive to make domestic tourism a major contributor to the national economy, the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA) has undertaken various initiatives to get maximum mileage out of national airlines and other components of the transportation sector with the onset of summer. The SCTA also launched the Kingdom’s summer events here on Sunday. Riyadh Gov. Prince Khaled bin Bandar and SCTA Chairman Prince Sultan bin Salman took part in a ceremony at Diriyah (Riyadh) marking the launch of summer festival. The plan is to introduce a range of world-class products and services among Saudi nationals and residents, which will go a long way in promoting domestic tourism in the Kingdom. On the other hand, the tourism promotion drive launched by Prince Sultan recently was meant to ensure that domestic airlines give priority to the local tourist traffic instead of serving the outbound citizens and expatriates going on vacation. Besides the airlines, SCTA has launched a slew of other measures, which include financing tourism projects, streamlining the services and infrastructure facilities, besides exploring the possibility of a new umbrella organization to harness tourism potential in the Kingdom. There is a growing realization of the multiplier effect of domestic tourism on the economy in terms of job creation, boost to the construction, transportation and ancillary industries. No wonder, the starting point of this orchestrated drive includes fine-tuning the operational and marketing strategy, construction of additional housing units, pro-

JEDDAH: RAWAN RADWAN

The old town of Asir

The plan is to introduce a range of worldclass products and services among Saudi nationals and residents, which will go a long way in promoting domestic tourism in the Kingdom. viding quality tourist accommodation and upgrading local tourism services. Complementing the effort is the use of Internet and social network media to enlighten the citizens on tourist attractions in the Kingdom. “Know your country” and virtual reality tours represent the other side of this multi-dimensional approach. Against this backdrop, the SCTA chairman met with senior officials of the domestic and national air-

lines in preparation for the summer vacation. The meeting was to ensure the availability of flights for domestic tourists during the same period, when citizens usually spend their summer holidays within the Kingdom. Prince Sultan called on the domestic airlines to give priority to local tourists by increasing domestic flights during summer. He underlined the impact of local tourism on the national economy in general and Saudi nationals in particular. For this reason, the prince said, the national carriers are also partners in domestic tourism. While delivering this message at the Sixth Saudi Forum on Travel and Tourism Investment — 2013, Prince Sultan stated that the commission foresees new government initiatives for financing tourism projects and services to make the industry sustainable. This year was exceptional for the tourism industry in view of the structural changes to strengthen the base of the industry, he said. These measures had become necessary in the absence of an umbrella organization that could bring all sectors of tourism-oriented services together.

The five-day event was organized by SCTA from March 31-April 4 this year with the support of the Riyadh governor, who is also chairman of the Tourism Development Council in the Riyadh region. “The new airport projects, in addition to the new fleet of Saudi Arabian Airlines, and the entry of new companies in the domestic travel market, would be a major supporter of the increased domestic flights and stimulate tourist traffic between the interior regions of the Kingdom next year,” he added. Prince Sultan also underlined the importance of the recent decision of the Council of Ministers to launch a comprehensive program for streamlining the operations of service centers and gas stations on highways.

Sometimes you might need to take a car to reach your destination if flight seats are not available to suit your schedules. In addition, flight bookings may become more complicated when children are involved. Whether it's a business trip or family vacation, there are many tips and tricks that can make time speed by and ensure you reach your destination stressfree, even after being cooped up in a car. The FIRST rule is to prepare well. The night before the trip, you must get a good night’s sleep and not have a big meal that would place unnecessary pressure on your stomach the following day. Also, be aware of all the obstacles that you might face if you're the designated driver. Find a suitable route, keeping in mind that alternative routes should always be planned just in case you come across an obstruction on your primary route that could cause a lengthy delay. The SECOND rule is to keep cash at hand. This is important because one rarely finds ATM machines on the road. The THIRD rule is to have a bag of snacks and drinks. This serves two purposes, to keep you hydrated and full and to prevent unnecessary stops just to get something to drink and eat. The FOURTH rule is to stay entertained. The FIFTH and final rule is to enjoy the trip and relax. These rules apply to solo and family trips alike and have various permutations. For example, since paper maps have become scarce and are impractical, it is a good idea to keep printouts of your entire route. In addition, you should always keep money at hand for emergencies, whether it is for a tow truck, a tire change at a gas station or to fill up your tank. You never know what you might encounter on a long road trip, so be prepared for anything. Many commuters make the unfortunate mistake of drinking lots of coffee to “stay awake and aware” of everything around them.

Desert rides ... favorite choice of some residents and travelers

Lots of caffeine can result in the driver becoming jittery, anxious and sweaty. So it's best to simply have one cup of coffee if that's what you're used to on a daily basis. For the rest of the trip, it is recommended to keep hydrated with water and juices. Healthy snacks are the best way to go. Fruits and vegetables are great for adults and children. Other snacks can include nuts, raisins, pretzels and other small finger foods. Sandwiches are the best option for meals when hunger strikes. All types of sandwiches are easy to make, whether it is a simple cheese or club sandwich. Taking a break for a meal is a good time to stop the car and relax a bit. When children are around, it’s best to keep them preoccupied by playing fun games with them. Some games can include looking for simple objects along the road, naming objects or animals according to letters and so on. Many toy stores provide games in specially prepared bags for travel purposes. It is unwise to drive nonstop until your destination; the constant driving will strain the nerves of everyone. A break every few hours is best for all travelers. This way everyone can enjoy the view, take a 15-minute nap, stretch their legs and backs or simply get some fresh air. A long road trip does not have to be a drag; it can be enjoyable for all involved.


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Monday, June 3, 2013

SUPPLEMENT

Haj, Umrah revenues could hit SR 60 bn RIYADH: RASHID HASSAN

With the Kingdom mounting concerted effort to upgrade tourism infrastructure and related facilities as part of its effort to promote cultural tourism, Haj and Umrah, a major component of the Saudi tourism industry, are becoming increasingly important segments,

While every able-bodied Muslim who can afford the journey must perform the Haj at least once during their lifetime, the Umrah pilgrimage is optional. Yet millions of Muslims come to the Kingdom every year for Umrah, with the holy month of Ramadan being the peak time. A new Umrah law introduced

last year allows visits all year round and longer periods of stay — one month instead of twoweeks. The law also allows Umrah pilgrims the opportunity to travel to other parts of the Kingdom outside the two holy cities of Makkah and Madinah. The Kingdom annually earns over SR 30 billion from Haj and

Umrah. The figure could be doubled if the two seasons were professionally managed, said Abdul Ghani Hammad Al-Ansari, a member of the Haj and Umrah Committee at the Madinah Chamber of Commerce and Industry recently. He said the income generated in Makkah is much more than what

is generated in Madinah because of Makkah’s proximity to Jeddah's King Abdul Aziz International Airport. He added that there are large number of local Umrah companies but they do not operate in a unified manner. If united in their decisions and stances, they would benefit the

country economically as the unity would lead to the annual income from Haj and Umrah reaching over SR 60 billion substantially contributing in the reduction of unemployment in the Kingdom. Last year, Haj and Umrah travel generated $ 16.5 billion for the Kingdom and the figure is expected to increase substantially as religious tourist arrivals are forecast to grow further. Once the Haj is over with the pilgrims having left for home, the authorities starts preparing for a busy Umrah season, during which three million Muslims are expected to visit the Kingdom. The rate of occupancy for Umrah gradually increases reaching 100 percent during the last days of the holy month of Ramadan. The Interior Ministry has also issued a stern warning to the pilgrims against overstaying in the country as the problem of overstaying remains a headache for the authorities who want to ensure that all pilgrims leave by the end of the season after performing their religious duty. Haj and Umrah is also a catalyst for every development that takes place in the holy cities. Presently an additional 5,000 new rooms — in hotels and apartment blocks — are being created in Makkah for visitors. Saudi travel companies have been strongly investing in the local market, especially during Haj and Umrah periods. Saudi government's increased investments in infrastructure and expansion projects also reflects its determination to attract larger numbers of tourists.

One of the most significant projects is the expansion of the Jeddah airport that would be capable of accommodating up to 80 million travelers by 2035. One of the Kingdom's largest projects, SR 10 billion Jabal Alka’aba (Ka’aba Mountain), is considered a "real contribution to the development of the city of

Last year, Haj and Umrah travel generated $ 16.5 billion for the Kingdom and the figure is expected to increase substantially as religious tourist arrivals are forecast to grow further. Makkah." It would enable the city to meet the increased demand for hotel rooms during Haj and Umrah. These hotel projects would add about 8,000 hotel rooms to the city’s hospitality industry in the coming years. Tourism is currently the country’s second largest industry and this has huge significance for the economy as $ 80 billion worth of investment into key infrastructure projects, including airport expansion, railways and roads comes to fruition in the next 10 years.

Al-Khozama wins top travel awards

The Al-Khozama team at the World Travel Awards event in Dubai. RIYADH: GHAZANFAR ALI KHAN ARAB NEWS STAFF

Al-Khozama Management Company (Al Khozama), a major luxury commercial property development, investment and management company, further consolidated its leadership position in the Middle East’s hospitality industry after it scooped five prestigious awards at the annual World Travel Awards held at the Le Royal Meridian Beach Resort & Spa in Dubai recently. Recognized as Saudi Arabia’s Leading Hospitality Company, Al-Khozama has played a pivotal role in one of the fastest growing Middle Eastern tourism markets since it began operations in 1995. Al-Khozama continues to pioneer luxury hospitality development in the Kingdom, most recently opening the new Bay La Sun Hotel in King Abdullah Economic City, north of Jeddah in April 2013. The company is also confirmed to manage two new properties in Alkhobar in the Eastern Province, scheduled to open in 2015. Al-Khozama’s flagship five-star Al Faisaliah Hotel in Riyadh added two more World Travel Awards to its extensive line-up of international accolades, after being recognized as the Middle East’s Leading City Luxury Hotel and Saudi Arabia’s Leading Conference Hotel. The preferred address for discerning business travelers, government delegations and visiting dignitaries, Al-Faisaliah Hotel is also the venue of choice for many high profile business and financial events in the Kingdom, including the Euromoney conferences, the King Faisal International Prize, and the annual Saudi Travel and Tourism Investment Market. The exclusive Al Faisaliah Suites, comprising 106 ultra-luxury suites in the heart of the capital, won Saudi Arabia’s Leading Hotel Suite for its spectacular Royal Penthouse. The epitome of modernity and an emporium of luxury, the duplex Royal Penthouse features two master bedrooms, a guest bedroom and its own exclusive beauty spa, in addition to state-of-the-art business and lifestyle amenities.


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Monday, June 3, 2013

SUPPLEMENT

Diversity of wildlife great attraction for KSA tourists RIYADH: ALI FAYYAZ

Tourism is very important. It’s not only a potential source of revenue to deliver goods and services to the people but also one way of preserving resources and protecting the environment and its wildlife. The Kingdom is located within a typical arid to semi-arid region. It is considered by its unique biological diversity which is relatively low in comparison with other regions all over the world. However, such diversity contains wild species that have been acclimatized to live under adverse ecological conditions including weather and dry conditions. The Kingdom’s economic prosperity has resulted in changing lifestyles in agricultural, industrial and urbanization practices; and the increasing resource demands due to increased human population as well as other constrains negatively affected resources to an alarming extent. In this connection, the Saudi Wildlife Authority (SWA) has created a cultural website, Saudiwildlife. com, whose aim is to showcase and document the Kingdom’s wildlife diversity. "It is an electronic museum, the first of its kind in the Arab World and managed by Saudi specialists on ecology and biodiversity," says SWA's website. The SWA was established in 1986 and responsible for the conservation and development of wildlife in Kingdom. The commission announced fifteen areas for protection, covering about 85,000 km, which is about 4 percent of the Kingdom’s land area. To breed some particular indigenous species in captivity and reintroduce them into the wild, the commission established two research centers: The National Wildlife Research Center in Taif (NWRC) and King Khaled Wildlife Research Center in Thumamah (KKWRC). The NWRC is responsible for the captive breeding and the reintroduction of some key wildlife species that include the Asian houbara bustard, the Arabian oryx and the red-necked ostrich. The center is deeply committed to develop public awareness, especially in the southwestern part

RIYADH: ARAB NEWS

Visitors will be astounded by the myriad forms of wildlife.

Several thousand species of migratory birds come to the Kingdom during the winter and fly back home in February. of the Kingdom. It welcomes students and other visitors throughout the year, organize or participate in exhibitions and discussions. Capturing the beauty of wildlife, Riyadh Zoo provides comfort to its inhabitants and tourists. Animals housed in this zoo have sufficient moving and resting space. It has become a must-visit for tourists of all ages. The zoo was set up in 1957. Initially it was a small-scale zoo that housed animals gifted to members of the ruling clan of the Kingdom. In 1987, Riyadh Zoo was refurbished and opened to the public.

Riyadh Zoo also has a beautifully spread-out landscape and marvelously set terrains. It consists of more than 1,500 animals of 40 species. A train journey for about 20 minutes covers a good portion of the zoo that multiplies the entertainment of kids, adults and old alike. Visitors will be astounded by the myriad forms of wildlife such as seals, kangaroos, griffon vultures, tapirs, hyenas, lions, monkeys, rhinoceros, gazelles, leopards, tigers, reptiles, elephants and camels. The National Commission for Wildlife Conservation & Development (NCWCD) manages 15 protected areas, which include 85,557 sq km. There are many animals found during traveling in Kingdom. These include Gazelles, Wolves, Sand Cat, Caracal, Rock Hyrax, Mongoose, Hares, Ruppell's Fox, Nubian Ibex, Arabian Leopard, Arabian Oryx and Ratel. Saudi Arabia is also home to 60 lizard species, 34 snake species, nine turtle species, and seven amphibian species. Saudi Arabia is on important north-south and east-west migratory pathways, so during migrations, the Kingdom can be home to millions of birds of 180 different species.

Al-Mashreq Boutique Hotel celebrates winning accolades RIYADH: ALI FAYYAZ

Al-Mashreq Boutique Hotel recently held a ceremony in Riyadh city, on the occasion of receiving the titles — Leading Boutique Hotel in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Leading Boutique Hotel in the Middle East — in the World Travel Awards 2013 ceremony, which was held in Dubai, in the presence of a group of global hospitality industry leaders and managers of hotels, resorts and heads of companies, travel agencies and tourism experts worldwide. Al-Mashreq Boutique Hotel started operations in May 2012, the first five star boutique hotel in Saudi Arabia, which is part of the Home Offices complex that embodies the first complex of its kind in the city of Riyadh that provides the very best services for private offices and corporate companies. Attending the hotel event were Abdullah Al-Juhani, vice president of marketing and programs at Saudi Commission for Tourism & Antiquities; Salama bin Saedan, vice president of Tatweer Holding Company and the developer of Home Offices project and Al Mashreq Boutique Hotel; Khaled Al-Qussadi, general manager of Home Offices and the owner’s representative; and Samer Abou Aleiwi, general manager of Al Mashreq Boutique Hotel, in addition to a group of high profile businessmen and a large number of the hotel guests and media were present. Aleiwi welcomed the audience and talked about the hotel's unique personalized services and highlighted the achievement of the awards won by the hotel in Dubai. He congratulated the hotel management members and its entire staff, also acknowledged the vast accomplishment that has been made by winning these high profile awards within a short period of time. Al-Juhani said: "We are delighted to see such success in the Kingdom and the Middle East, especially as it comes to the quality of the new Boutique Hotel Al Mashreq, This achievement reflects the continuous progress and rebirth in the hotel sector, due to the massive demand by investors and businessmen which cre-

Kempinski Grand & Ixir Hotel stands tall in personalized hospitality

Khaled Al-Qussadi, Samer Abou Aleiwi and Salama bin Saedan receiving the award at WTA in Dubai.

This achievement reflects the continuous progress and rebirth in the hotel sector. ate competition in this sector in terms of quality and services, this competition raises the level and quality of services which enterprises can apply to win prizes at the level of the Kingdom and the Middle East. Bin Saedan expressed his gratitude to the SCTA for its continuous support to all hotels, indicating that the presence of Al Juhani validates this support, which also motivates all to excel and to put on more effort in order to continue providing excellence and maintain the high level of quality for Al Mashreq Boutique Hotel. Al-Qussadi said: "Special thanks to the efforts made by SCTA represented by Prince Sultan bin Salman and his continuous support for the tourism sectors in the Kingdom, including the hotel sec-

tor, which has had a significant impact in winning these awards that reflects the great development of tourism in the Kingdom." Al-Mashreq is the first Boutique Hotel in Riyadh, which is ideally located within a short distance from major commercial sites and landmarks on the intersection of vibrant Oruba Street and Prince Turki Road. Al-Mashreq Boutique Hotel is simply breathtaking and it’s a tribute to age-old architectural styles of majestic elegance in Saudi Arabia in an intimate ambiance of luxury with personalized genuine service. Al-Mashreq offers a range of modern luxuries, including a fitness center, a coffee bar, spa and wellness centre. Facilities at the hotel include a 24-hour reception, a concierge and a lift. Recreational facilities include massage services and a Turkish steam bath. The rooms and suites overlook the garden and include a flat-screen TV, and bathroom with free toiletries. Accommodation is soundproofed and air conditioned. Breakfast buffets are served by the restaurant, and room service is also available. Free Wi-Fi is offered in the entire hotel.

Nestled in the heart of Bahrain’s fashionable Al-Seef District and connected to the island’s premier leisure and entertainment destination, Kempinski Grand & Ixir Hotel Bahrain City Center’s two towers stand tall, ushering in a new era of personalized hospitality. This luxurious five-star property from the distinguished Kempinski Group invites guests to discover a new wealth of accommodation, where genuine Arabic hospitality meets harmonized European flair. Introducing a new level of luxury and exclusivity to stylish and discerning travelers in Bahrain, the hotel offers diverse culinary experiences and a quintessential haven of comfort within two unique towers, Kempinski Grand Hotel and Kempinski Ixir Hotel. World-class conference and business facilities distinguish the hotel as the premium choice for the most astute of business travelers while an array of world class amenities make it a vacation spot memories are made of. The hotel comprises 460 guestrooms, including 79 suites, and premium suites including the exclusive Royal Suite, which provide the comfort and luxury consistent with Kempinski’s philosophy. Located throughout the two towers, the stylish rooms are outfitted with elegant and sophisticated furnishings. Crystal table

lamps, walk in wardrobes and sculpted baths accentuate the decor and showcase Kempinski’s world class attention to detail. The culinary portfolio consists of seven outstanding restaurants and lounges throughout the two towers. T-Spoon is an exclusive boutique cafe, featuring the finest selection of teas and coffees together with a delectable selection of savories, cakes and pastries. Award-winning Saveur offers a fine dining experience with lunch buffet and a la carte dinner. Mezzanine Lounge features indi-

vidual private “media pods” allowing guests to stay connected and entertained by modern technology with delicious platters and beverages on the menu, as well as entertainment in the form of Argentinian musical duo Marybeth & Ruben. Boudoir is the answer to opulence boasting a collection of premium beverages and the finest cigars in an intimate setting with saxophonist Faith L. H. Nasmat has

a Mediterranean-style setting with al fresco ambiance overlooking wooden cabanas and the infinity pool. Bizarre Lounge is the most luxurious night lounge in Bahrain where all the fashionable people party with Canadian Resident DJ Jabu. Baharat offers an eclectic selection of modern Arabic cuisine with a traditional Oud player and a popular Friday Family Brunch. To the delight of locals and tourists alike, the hotel is situated within Bahrain City Center, the largest recreation destination on the island featuring a cosmopolitan shoppers’ paradise with over 340 retail outlets showcasing high street and designer brands, and a wide range of entertainment facilities including an indoor Wahooo! Waterpark and a 20 screen Cineplex. All of this is combined with the convenience of a city center location in Manama, making it the destination of choice for leisure and business travelers alike. The Kempinski Grand & Ixir Hotel Bahrain City Center is just a one hour flight from Dubai and Saudi Arabia while locally a 15-minute drive from Bahrain International Airport and a 20-minute drive to the Bahrain International Circuit. To celebrate the summer season, stay with Kempinski Grand & Ixir Hotel Bahrain City Center and benefit from the exclusive Summer a la Carte offer.


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Amex: A new card is just a phone call away RIYADH: RASHID HASSAN

The American Express card has truly distinguished itself as a top performer and its admirable performances have set it as the best choice for travel, says a top executive of American Express. Robert Lickley, director of luxury travel and lifestyle premium products, also said the Amex cards had set up very high benchmarks unattainable for peers in the card industry. In keeping with the global leadership position of American Express in the card payment industry, American Express Saudi Arabia Ltd. is committed to bringing the most innovative programs to card members in the Kingdom. Moreover, it supports its card members’ lifestyle aspirations by offering a host of financial, travel and lifestyle related services. He said the American Express Card comes with a wealth of benefits. For example, Centurion and Platinum card members can, through their concierge and personal account manager, have access to the most coveted hotel and resort brands in the world in addition to exclusive fine dining and travel programs tailored specifically to fit their needs and aspirations. All other card members can benefit from our online travel platform designed and managed

Robert Lickley

by Travelocity as well as global and local offers through the Selects program. He added: “All American Express cards come with a complete range of travel insurances covering all aspects of the trip from the very small details like lost or stolen luggage, missed connections… all the way to travel accident insurances.” Lickley maintained that the core values of American Express are the same in every country — quality, professionalism, integrity, courtesy and efficiency. Referring to the key safety features of the card, he said: “It is our commitment to ensure that our card members are able to avail hassle free services and perform

their transactions without being subject to fraud.” He said: “Therefore, we have invested in sophisticated technology to identify and detect fraudulent use of our cards.” Highlighting the key safety features to protect the Saudi traveler, he said the Amex services include SMS and e-mail communications between American Express and card members for every single transaction inside the Kingdom or abroad. “We ensure prompt response on lost or stolen card to stop fraudulent use of cards,” said Lickley. “We are committed to dispatching a replacement card to our card member anywhere in the world as quickly as we can manage almost always within 48 hours from

receiving the request,” the Amex executive said. “We are operating 24X7. We’re here to help. We are just around the corner… Just a phone call away,” he added. One can get the assistance instantly anytime, across the globe. Moreover, American Express also facilitates online access to provide hassle free service by building a state-of-the-art online portal which is very secure and convenient to all our card members to visit their account anytime anywhere. Through their interactive website, the card members can track all their expenses, retrieve their statement, activate their new card online, submit any service request and even view their cash pin for ATM cash withdrawals conveniently and securely. He said retail protection is another benefit available on the cards ensuring hassle free shopping facilities and all card members purchases are insured against theft and damages for a certain period governed by the terms and conditions. Referring to the best products offered by Amex, Lickley said the company will continue to innovate and deliver world-class products and services for customers in Saudi Arabia. Commenting on the reasons behind his decision to move to Amex

from BMI in the Kingdom, where he was general manager, Lickley said Amex has an excellent global reputation and it bears eloquent testimony to the high standards. Moreover, at the American Express, “I have the opportunity to develop the travel benefits for card members especially to the premium card members,” said Lickley. “I also have the opportunity here to expand experiential lifestyle activities for premium card members and enhance those as part of the travel and lifestyle concierge offered to premium card members as part of their membership,” he said. Amex (Saudi Arabia) Ltd. is a joint venture company, equally owned by Amex (Middle East) EC and the Saudi Investment Bank. It owns and operates the American Express card and merchant business in the Kingdom. Though American Express products were available to customers, merchants and corporations in Saudi Arabia for over 20 years, the formation of Amex (Saudi Arabia) Ltd. in 1999, represented a major milestone for the development of the American Express Brand in the Kingdom. Combining the resources and expertise of American Express with the Saudi Investment Bank has contributed to developing and expanding the services offered to American Express card members and merchants in the Kingdom.

Travel safely by bus this holiday

JEDDAH: IBRAHIM NAFFEE

If you're a little concerned about traveling by car to your domestic destinations during the upcoming holidays, try taking a bus operated by the Saudi Arabian Public Transport Company (SAPTCO). All domestic bus services are operated by SAPTCO. The company is professionally run and has a good safety record with well-maintained buses, usually replaced every two to three years. The buses are comfortable, air-conditioned and clean. Standing passengers are not allowed. It is also prohibited to talk to the driver and smoke. All buses have on-board toilets, and make rest stops every few hours. For general information, fare prices and timetables, dial 800 124 9999, toll-free. There are recorded messages in Arabic and English. Unaccompanied foreign women can travel on domestic and international buses with their iqamas (residence permits). If you're an expat tourist, use your passport with its tourism visa. The front seats are generally unofficially reserved for families including single women, and the back half for men. Check in half an hour before domestic departures and one hour before international departures. Passengers with hand luggage can arrive 10 minutes before departure. If the bus is full, you can join the waiting list and board the bus five minutes before departure if there are no-shows. Note that during the Haj, services are reduced across the country as buses are seconded for pilgrims. There are no classes, except on one service: the SAPTCO VIP Express service that runs between Riyadh and Alkhobar, which costs SR 90 and takes five hours. Bus fares cost approximately half of the equivalent airfare. Return tickets are 25 percent cheaper than two one-way fares. Note that at the time of writing, only cash was being accepted for payment. International bus companies operate services to Saudi Arabia from Jordan, Qatar, Bahrain, Syria, Turkey, Egypt and the UAE.


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Heritage tag for historical sites: KSA boosts campaign RIYADH: GHAZANFAR ALI KHAN ARAB NEWS STAFF

The Kingdom has mounted a concerted effort to upgrade the infrastructure and related facilities at historical and cultural sites as part of its effort to promote cultural tourism. The thrust of its program is eventually to get several historical sites of the Kingdom declared as a World Heritage site on the UNESCO list within next few years, says Prince Sultan bin Salman, president of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA). The prince was addressing a committee to monitoring the development of the project. He said the committee would redefine the territorial limits of the surrounding regions to be protected and developed. An office will also be set up for completing formalities to obtain government funding for the project, besides undertaking archaeological excavations. The Kingdom had submitted applications to register three sites on UNESCO’s World Heritage List. The first two sites — Madain Saleh in Madinah Province and Al-Diriyah, site of the first Saudi state — were successfully registered. The SCTA subsequently submitted the preliminary application for the nomination of Jeddah’s downtown historical center Balad in the World Heritage Committee in 2010. UNESCO declared Madain Saleh as

The thrust of SCTA’s program is eventually to get several historical sites of the Kingdom declared as a World Heritage site on the UNESCO list within next few years. Madain Saleh a site of patrimony in 2008, and it became Saudi Arabia’s first World Heritage site. It was chosen for its well-preserved remains from late antiquity, especially the 131 rock-cut monumental tombs, with their elaborately ornamented facades, of the Nabatean kingdom. Madain Saleh, also called Al-Hijr, is a pre-Islamic archaeological site located in the Al-Ula sector in Madinah province of the Kingdom. The site constitutes the Kingdom’s southernmost settlement. Accounts from the Holy Qur’an place the settlement of the area by

the tribe of Thamud after Noah but before Moses, which can be interpreted as the third millennium BC. The Thamudis, who would carve out homes in the mountains, were punished by Allah for their persistent practice of idol worship. The government has developed Madain Saleh, officially protected as an archaeological site since 1972, for its tourism potential. The long history of the place and the multitude of cultures to have occupied the site have led to the several names that are still in use to refer to the area. The place is currently known as Madain Saleh, Arabic for “Cities of

Saleh,” which was coined by an Andalusian traveler in 1336 AD. The name “Al-Hijr,” Arabic for “rocky place,” has also been used to allude to its topography. Both names have been mentioned in the Holy Qur’an when referring to the settlements found in the locality. Al-Diriyah, located on the northwestern outskirts of the capital city Riyadh was the original home of the Saudi royal family, and served as the capital of the first Saudi dynasty from 1744 to 1818. Today, the town is the seat of the Diriyah Governorate, which also includes the villages of Uyayna, Jubayla, and Al-Ammariyyah. The Turaif district in Diriyah

was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2010. The ruins of the old city of Al-Diriyah lay on either side of the narrow valley known as Wadi Hanifa, which continues southward through Riyadh and beyond. Consisting almost entirely of mud-brick structures, the ruins are divided into three districts, Ghussaibah, Al-Mulaybeed, and Turaif, set on top of hills overlooking the valley. Of the three, Turaif is the highest, and its bottom is easily accessible to tourists by foot. Part of the city wall, running along the edges of the wadi and also made of mudbricks, are still extant along with some short observation towers. The modern city is built at a lower altitude at the foot of the hill

Part of an old port in Al-Ahsa.

upon which Turaif is located. To the north of the town, inside the valley, are a number of gardens, palm groves, and small farms and estates. A dam known as Al-Ilb lies further north. The Kingdom’s renovation of its cultural and historical sites is moving in tandem with a parallel effort targeting international forums, such as the Arabian Travel Market held in Dubai recently. The promotional drive, it is believed, would go a long way in boosting the tourist traffic to the Kingdom, according to the SCTA chairman. In a statement after visiting the Kingdom’s pavilion at the exhibition, Prince Sultan said Saudi Arabia is rich in tourist attractions, including historical sites such as Madain Saleh and Diriyah. He stressed the need to project the Kingdom as a major tourist destination, where Gulf citizens could spend their vacations. “The SCTA intends to organize a variety of attractive programs and

activities to woo Saudis as well as GCC citizens to spend their holidays in the Kingdom,” the Saudi Press Agency quoted him as saying. He said Saudi tourism would not be limited to Haj and Umrah alone as new investment projects were under way to boost tourist facilities and attractions in the Kingdom. Forums such as the Arabian Travel Market could serve as a springboard for these ventures. On other hand, the Kingdom wants to achieve its national objective of promoting cultural tourism as a major source of employment and business opportunities. Accordingly, Saudi Arabia aims to nationalize the tourism sector, Prince Sultan bin Salman said in Al-Aqaba, while addressing an economic conference in the Jordanian coastal city recently. The prince chaired the first session of the Al-Aqaba second economic conference titled “Tourist Industry and its Impact on Reducing Poverty and Unemployment.”


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Hospitality industry ready to meet holiday rush RIYADH: MD RASOOLDEEN ARAB NEWS STAFF

Charles Bowden, an American non-fiction author, journalist and essayist said: "Summer time is always the best of what might be." So is the situation in the Kingdom with the start of the summer vacation with citizens and residents planning their annual holiday either inside or outside the Kingdom. The promotional campaigns of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA) have encouraged a large number of citizens to travel within the Kingdom with their families. In the sector of domestic tourism, besides Saudi nationals visiting Riyadh, Dammam and Jeddah, a sizable number of expatriates and citizens visit the holy cities of Makkah and Madinah. Every year, a large section of the local population visits various global destinations during summer. A recent survey carried out by Visa ranked Saudi nationals as the world’s biggest spenders abroad, with travelers budgeting an average of $ 6,666 per trip. It was pointed out that tourists and other travelers from the Kingdom are spending almost three times the global average of $ 2,390 when abroad. Another study revealed that Saudi families spent SR 7 billion on tourism abroad during last year's summer, an increase of 28 percent compared to the previous year. According to a local travel agent based in Riyadh, this year Turkey has become the No. 1 destination for Saudi tourists followed by Malaysia, which is also a popular tourist attraction for the locals. Then comes other countries such as India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Singapore, Maldives, GCC, the US and the UK. Turkey aims to double the number of Saudi tourists to 400,000 by the end of this year. The country attracted 120,000 Saudi

Saudi families enjoying themselves at a swimming pool.

tourists in 2011 and 200,000 in 2012, and hopes to double that number this year. Malaysian Ambassador Professor Syed Omar Mohamad Saggaff told Arab News that his country is a favorite destination for Saudi nationals because it has all the potentials to attract Saudi families. "We have everything that an average Saudi looks for his family holiday," the envoy said, adding more than 100,000 Saudi tourists visited Malaysia last year. He anticipated a 10 percent increase in the number of Saudi tourists this year. Besides the Saudi nationals, around 7,000 expatriates from the Kingdom also visit Kuala Lumpur. These expatriates mainly come from countries such as India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. In preparation for summer holidays,

Riyadh-based Unique Choice conducted its 17th consecutive GCC road show in May throughout the Kingdom. It is a global travel network employing professionals throughout the region. The road shows were conducted in Dammam, Riyadh and Jeddah. More than 20 participants around the globe, especially from the UK, Malaysia, Indonesia, Maldives, Sri Lanka, Oman and the UAE took part in the show. Hundreds of local travel agents took part in the event. Zawfir Ziard, CEO of Unique Choice, said the road show was an annual event where buyers and sellers meet to exchange their products and services. Representatives from leading hotels throughout the globe came here to present their products at competitive rates.

To attract Saudi tourists to experience India’s luxury destinations, the Indian Embassy in Riyadh, in cooperation with the Indian Tourism Office hosted the India Tourism Road Show 2013 in the capital. The event held in Riyadh, Jeddah and Dammam, focused on the various tourism destinations that span across the

South Asian nation targetlarly volcanoes, dense forests, attractive beaching high income Saudi es, spectacular natural tourists. beauty, which draws the Hamid Ali Rao, attention of tourists ambassador of India, The promotional throughout the year. said India hosts the Taj campaigns of the The rich culture and Mahal, one of the seven Saudi Commission tradition of this country wonders of the world, attracts the foreigners who along with 28 other for Tourism and are keen to experience the UNESCO certified world Antiquities (SCTA) culture of Asia, said an heritage sites that have have encouraged embassy official. Being a existed throughout many a large number Muslim country, Indonesia civilizations. has its own advantages to He described India as a of citizens to attract Saudi nationals. natural bouquet where travel within the The attractive tourist every region has its own Kingdom with spots in the country colors, fragrance and their families. include the National beauty to cherish . Monument towers, In 2011, Saudi nationals numbering 26,000 visited India, regis- Merdeka Square, Central Museum, Istiqlal Mosque in Jakarta and other tering a growth of 12 percent over 2010. Almost 14 percent of India’s 1.24 billion spots in Sumatra, Bali, Sulawesi, Lombok citizens are Muslims, with a 10-year and Banda Islands. According to SCTA, tourists from Saudi growth rate of 36 percent. Indonesia expects the number of Saudi Arabia made 1.26 million overnight trips to tourists to the country to exceed 80,000 other countries in April 2012, compared to this year following a spate of promotional 1.54 million in March 2012, recording a activities undertaken by the Indonesian decrease of 18.3 percent in a month while compared to April 2011, the number of tourembassy to attract more Saudis. Around 49,000 Saudi nationals visited ists surged by 11.7 percent in 12 months. In April 2012, about 63.5 percent of Indonesia in 2008, about 57,000 in 2009 the total number of tourists went for leiand 70,000 in 2010. Indonesia has many natural tourist sure purpose; 19.5 percent for other purattractions as the world's largest archi- pose, including medical, education and pelagic country with more than 17,508 training; 13.1 percent for VFR (visiting friends and relatives); and 3.9 percent for islands. It is a land of mountains — particu- business purposes.

Movenpick Alkhobar serves up modern-day tiffin with a twist JEDDAH: ARAB NEWS

Movenpick Hotel Alkhobar’s popular Maharaja by Vineet, Indian specialty restaurant has launched a modernday version of the traditional ‘tiffin’. This special business lunch combines delicious recipes by Michelin star chef Vineet Bhatia, efficiently served in 45 minutes to provide a perfect option for lunch. The traditional tiffin is a multicompartment metal lunch container often delivered by colorful “tiffin wal-

lahs” in the cities and villages across India. Maharaja’s updated version continues their emphasis on traditional and ethnic Indian cuisine, prepared with a modern touch.

Their new tiffin is a distinctive glass “pyramid” with several different compartments. Dishes range from a chilled tomato and coconut soup; jalpari kebab; tawa lamb tikka with risotto and naan; murgh makhanir, dal maharani and gobhi manchurian. Maharaja’s spectacular dining room is the ideal place for a formal business lunch or a more relaxed casual dinner, with its Tandoori oven show kitchen plus a highly efficient and friendly service team.


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KSA top travel choice of Gulf visitors JEDDAH: K.T. Abdurabb

business activities such as exhibitions and antiquities.” According to SCTA sources, Al-Uqair Tourism would be set up soon, with capital investments of SR 3 billion. The project is considered by many to be a major shift in tourism development. Business Monitor International (BMI), an international industry consultant, says that the Kingdom is expected to host 15.8 million tourists by 2014.

ARAB NEWS STAFF

Saudi Arabia has emerged as the leading country in the Middle East in terms of air traffic volume and visitor data. “We want to make the Kingdom a preferable tourism destination to GCC countries,” said Hamad bin Abdul Aziz Al-Sheikh, assistant vice president of The Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA) for marketing. He was speaking to Arab News on the sidelines of the Arabian Travel Market (ATM) in Dubai. Saudi Arabia had a huge presence at the show. More than 30 major Saudi companies took part in the event under the umbrella of SCTA. The SCTA pavilion highlighted tourism potentials in the Kingdom in addition to investment opportunities. Ways of increasing cooperation between GCC travel and tourism companies were discussed. A workshop on designing and organizing tourism programs about Saudi tourism destinations for GCC citizens was part of the forum. Delegates also explored the feasibility of regular commercial flights to GCC states, from destinations such as Taif, Abha, Al-Qassim and Hail. SCTA sources said Haj and Umrah travel generated $ 16.5 billion for the Kingdom in 2012 and business tourism demand was also growing, particularly for Riyadh. Tourist arrivals are forecast to grow at CAGR of 4 percent by 2022, driven by strong growth across all sectors. Tourism is currently Saudi Arabia second largest industry and this has huge significance for the economy as $ 80 billion worth of investment into key infrastructure projects including airport expansion, railways and roads comes to fruition in the next 10 years. Top tourism officials said SCTA had proposed a SR 5 billion fund to promote tourism in the Kingdom. Speaking on the sidelines of the ATM, SCTA Chairman Prince Sultan bin Salman said the organization was looking to set up a fund to finance tourism projects, to encourage business people to invest in the sector. In a separate session, Prince Sultan said the Arabian Peninsula had always been a crossroads for different civilizations. These days those roads are in the sky rather than on the ground, and the same role that Arabia has played in the past is now similarly happening with airline networks. “The alliance between tourism and air transportation is very much a non-separable alliance, and it is very important to focus on aligning these two sectors to make places more

The SCTA stand at the Arabian Travel Market.

accessible and affordable,” he said. of the regional market share and serving as the point of oriAmadeus air traffic analysis confirms Prince Sultan’s statement. gin for 23.1 million passengers. According to Amadeus statistics, Saudi Arabia and the UAE are Representing 5 percent of the region`s air traffic market with the leaders in the Middle East in terms of air traffic volume while 4.74 million travelers, Qatar led the way in terms of passenger volQatar demonstrated the strongest growth. ume growth. UAE emerges as the most prominent point of origin for The three countries together repreintercontinental journeys, while Saudi volsented more than 53 percent or 52.8 ume is driven by domestic traffic. million of the total 99 million passenIn terms of regional traffic, the UAE gers whose point of departure origiwas the most used point of origin for the nated from the Middle East in 2012. 7.2 million travelers who flew within the Data indicates that Saudi Arabia, the region, followed by Saudi Arabia, which Islamic tourism is not UAE and Qatar enjoyed an average served as the point of origin for 6.1milgrowth rate of 10 percent in air traffic Saudi Arabia’s only focus. lion travelers within the region. volume in 2012 as compared to the We focus our marketing previous year, thus outpacing, by a on Saudi Arabia’s EASIER VISA RULES large margin, the 2 percent growth “Soon, we will announce new visa packexperienced in the Middle East as a business activities such as ages for travelers to the Kingdom,” Prince exhibitions and antiquities. Sultan said, while addressing a forum at ATM. whole. The figures show that Saudi Arabia The planned visa rules in Saudi Arabia will leads the middle east air travel market, allow foreigners to take tours to certain hisQatar being the fastest expanding. Saudi Arabia remains the largest torical and Islamic sites as tourists. air travel market in the region. Prince Sultan said Saudi Arabia would start issuing visas called The 25 million passengers who started their journey from the “Umrah-Plus” this year. country accounted for 25 percent of the total passenger traffic in the Abdullah S. Al Jehani, vice-president for marketing and proMiddle East in 2012. grams at SCTA, commented: “Islamic tourism is not Saudi The UAE followed a close second, commanding 23 percent Arabia’s only focus. We focus our marketing on Saudi Arabia’s

GROWING HOSPITALITY SECTOR The hospitality sector is showing strong signs of growth to keep up with rising in-flow of tourists. Saudi Arabia is expected to deliver 1,182 new internationally branded hotels into the market by 2015, according to a Colliers International October 2012 market report, with potential for an additional 34,882 midscale hotel guest rooms after 2015, located in both primary and second tier cities. Frontel for Hospitality Inc. will launch its property, the 1,350-key Frontel Village Hotel, Madinah, next year. This will be followed in 2015 by the debut of a second Madina property, said Rushdi Sherwani, director of brand development. The luxurious 650-room Frontel Hotel Al-Baiya will be situated in the heart of the city, and comprises two 10-story towers, with a footprint of 6,500 square meters, but affording 65,000 square meters of hotel space. “Infrastructure growth within the Kingdom has created a wave of interest and investment into new tourism and business travel facilities. During ATM, we met with Haj and Umrah travel companies and other tour operators from the UAE, Malaysia, Indonesia, Pakistan and Sri Lanka,” he added. Sherwani said inbound visitor arrivals are also forecast to grow from 13 million in 2010 to 15.8 million by 2014, with the kingdom focusing its efforts on providing the necessary travel infrastructure to boost domestic, Haj and Umrah, and the fledgling inbound tourism sector, as it allocates $ 500 million to airport expansion and $ 7 billion investment into the new Jeddah airport. Swiss-Belhotel International officials, meanwhile, said that they will open their 126-room Swiss-Belhotel in Riyadh by September 2014. Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide announced the debut of its Four Points by Sheraton brand in Saudi Arabia. The Four Points by Sheraton Riyadh Khaldia will feature 376 guest rooms including 138 suites. Hyatt Group will open two properties by the end of 2013. Within Hyatt’s pipeline are the 257-room, 37-suite Hyatt Regency Riyadh Olaya, and Hyatt Regency Makkah, offering 628 guest rooms. “Over the last few years, the demand in the luxury market in Saudi Arabia has been very strong,” says Tareq Daoud, regional vice president, Global Sales— Middle East, Hyatt Hotels & Resorts, Southwest Asia.


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Women-only floor opens Sofitel Al Khobar the Corniche all at Four Seasons Riyadh set to welcome summer guests ALKHOBAR: ARAB NEWS

The “Pearl Floor” also includes a modern womenonly lounge that offers complimentary refreshments, in addition to a new fully equipped ladies gym. (AN photo) JEDDAH: RIMA AL-MUKHTAR arab news staff

In a unique gesture, Riyadh’s Four Seasons luxury hotel located in the Kingdom Center has launched its first women’s-only floor that provides a secure and feminine atmosphere for the hotel’s female guests. The hotel’s 50th floor overlooking the streets of Riyadh will especially be a boon for solo female travelers in Riyadh. The women’s-only floor was launched recently in a ceremony by Princess Reema bint Talal. “From the moment women set feet in the hotel, our goal is to make them feel special. No matter what their needs are, we will make sure they are being well taken care of with the utmost consideration all the way down to the smallest detail,” says Greg Pirkle, General Manager of Four Seasons Hotel Riyadh. Women-only floors in hotels

General Manager Greg Pirkle

have become a trend since 2010 in big cities such as New York, London, Berlin, and Toronto, where security is an issue for solo female travelers. “According to Marybeth Bond, author of female travel books, women’s market exceeds $ 19 trillion annually, so there is a great boost for businesswomen who travel from one city to another for work, even here in Saudi Arabia. Our role here at the Four Seasons is to try and make each guest as

comfortable as possible,” said Noor Darr, The Pearl floor manager. “There are three objectives of having an all-female floor: safety, comfort and being pampered. We have catered to all what women need in one floor with special amenities in their rooms and with a private access from the 48th floor,” she added. The “Pearl Floor” is fitted out with 20 premium rooms and two Four Seasons Executive Suites, in addition to a special express check-in desk, which is managed by a team of experienced female staff who embody a depth of reliability and trust, allowing them to build a personal connection with female guests. The floor also includes a modern womenonly lounge that offers complimentary refreshments, in addition to a new fully equipped ladies gym, both of which are open for 24 hours.

Ideally located and looking over the Gulf, Sofitel Al Khobar the Corniche offers an exceptional view toward the island of Bahrain. While on the other side, this luxury hotel has the access to all points of interest in the city. “… beside our committed services to our valuable guests, the location itself is very much attractive and ideal for the summer travelers to the city of Alkhobar,” Hany Gaber, director of sales and marketing said while offering a special summer package for the leisure travelers. He added: “Every Thursday night we have seafood theme buffet at Cafe Chic restaurant which is worth trying during your stay.”

Sofitel Al Khobar the Corniche consists of 229 rooms and suites, including executive or club floors with exceptional panoramic view, contemporary designed and My Bed concept. Club Sofitel, reserved for the guests staying at club

floors, provides an exclusive service. The hotel offers daily lunch and dinner buffet at Cafe Chic restaurant with a wide range of mouthwatering international cuisine. Chocolate lounge, located at mezzanine floor is the best place for informal gatherings, offering summer special drinks, ice creams and all kinds of original home made chocolates. For the well being and entertainment, So Fit, located at first floor is fully equipped and giving an opportunity for fitness sessions over looking the Gulf. Sofitel Al Khobar also encourages a taste for rest and relaxation. Outdoor covered swimming pool, Jacuzzi, sauna, steam room, variety of body treatment and services are available; total relaxation guaranteed.

Fursan lines up range of benefits RIYADH: ALI FAYYAZ

Fursan Travel and Fursan Leisure, a leading travel corporation of more than 30 years, continues to be an industry leader with its expansion plans and upgrading technology to enhance the services and values for customers in Saudi Arabia. “We want to be the market leader in high quality, diversified, and fairly competitive travel services and solutions in the Middle East & North Africa Region,” said Mojib Alajaleen, Fursan’s marketing and business development manager. He said: “We are continuously improving our products and carefully analyzing the market to understand the existing and the future needs of our clients, innovatively designing new products and solutions, and acting always ethically and responsibly.”

He added: “We have more than 100 outlets in the Kingdom to provide better services to customers. We have many expansion plans this year for our clients.” Fursan Travel is a Radius exclusive agent in Saudi Arabia. Radius is a market leading global travel management company for multinational groups looking to centralize globally or regionally. Radius supports clients in 80

countries in 3,300 worldwide, serving more than 23,000 employees with $ 19 billion in total turnover. “We are motivating employees by pushing them to work more efficiently, understanding the needs and requirements of the

business growth plan. We are exploring and implementing new marketing strategies to offer and promote the company’s products,” said Alajaleen. In 2011, Fursan signed a longterm agreement with Sabre Travel Network Middle East, the world’s major provider of high-performance travel solutions, to increase travel demand, optimize efficiency and support growth objectives. Fursan provides many services such as ticketing and reservations, hotel and apartment accommodations, tours and holidays products, transportation rental services, meeting and events arrangement, cargo services, insurance and airport services. It also provides many other services by air, sea and land for fast delivery of goods and items. Fursan provides door to door, door to airport, pickup and strap-

We want to be the market leader in high quality, diversified, and fairly competitive travel services and solutions. ping, containerization, transit, storage and warehousing, customs clearance and packaging for clients’ satisfaction. Fursan, established in 1980 with head office in Riyadh, has expanded its operation and services substantially. Today, Fursan is one among the top 100 companies in Kingdom.


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