Tourism’s importance in Saudi Arabia

Tourism’s importance in Saudi Arabia

Travel and Tour published on Thursday, February 21, 2019, this article on Saudi Arabia that aims to attract 1.5m tourists by 2020 all according to its Prince Mohamed Bin Salman’s Vision 2030. In this prince’s vision, diversification of the economy is emphasised and Tourism as a segment of it, is aimed at increasing the State revenue.

Tourism now holds pivotal importance for Saudi Arabia

Tourism has turned out to be the central development theme in Vision 2030 for Saudi Arabia, and as the Kingdom gradually opens its doors to tourists from around the world, its own citizens are also considered as one the fastest growing segment in the global travel market.

With travel bookings in the Kingdom considered the largest in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, worth more than $25 billion each year, the power of the Saudi traveller is strong, which was reflected in recently concluded Jeddah International Travel and Tourism Exhibition (JTTX), where thousands of Saudis, including women, attended the event.

The show is touted as the largest travel trade show in Kingdom, featuring outbound destinations for Saudi tourists and travel companies showcasing various lucrative options.

The JTTX ninth edition was formally inaugurated by Prince Saud Bin Abdallah Bin Jalawi, Advisor to Makkah Governor and also secretary at Jeddah Governorate. The show was held under patronage of Prince Mishal Bin Majed, Governor of Jeddah.

More than 200 exhibitors from 29 countries took part in JTTX which was held at Hilton Hotel. There were stalls displaying a wide range of tourism facilities such hotels, resorts, airlines, travel technologies, medical and educational tourism.

A majority of the Kingdom’s tourists travel to the UAE, Bahrain, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Turkey and the UK as top holiday destinations.

However, new destinations like Kerala in India, Sri Lanka, Azerbaijan and Georgia emerge as new destinations for Saudis.

The show also featured eight new destinations: Hong Kong, Finland, Spain, Mauritius, Morocco, Kosovo, Vietnam and New Zealand with Tunisia being the guest of honor of the event.

Christmas festivities in Bethlehem

Christmas festivities in Bethlehem

Bethlehem, West Bank (AP) – Palestinians are preparing to host pilgrims from around the world in celebrating Christmas in the West Bank city of Bethlehem.

Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa, the top Roman Catholic cleric in the Holy Land, crossed an Israeli military checkpoint from Jerusalem on Monday ahead of midnight Mass at the Church of the Nativity, the traditional birthplace of Jesus.

Hundreds of locals and foreign visitors gathered in Manger Square as bagpipe-playing Palestinian Scouts paraded past a giant Christmas tree.

Palestinian Tourism Minister Rula Maaya says “the whole world is looking toward Bethlehem” and the Palestinians are ready to host them.

The Christmas festivities traditionally bring a boost of holiday cheer to Christians in the Holy Land, who make up just a small percentage of the local population.

Christmas in Palestine

December 22nd – December 30th 2018

During the Christmas season, Bethlehem in Palestine welcomes Christian worshipers from all denominations from all over the world. An estimated 10,000 were in the Square on Christmas Eve last year!  It is an exciting, colorful and lively time during which a message of hope is broadcast around the world by the large number of media agencies covering Manger Square in which the Church of the Nativity is found.

What will we do?

You are invited to take part in this unique experience with To Be There. We have a well-planned a program providing you with opportunities to enjoy the Christmas season as well as gain an understanding of ancient and recent history, and how the occupation affects the lives and the future of Palestine and its people.  Topics which will be covered during your visit include Palestinian refugees, their  legal status and the hardships they face; Israeli settlement colonies which contribute to the forcible displacement of Palestinians and land theft; the treatment by Israel of Palestinian children and the documented violations of their rights; Palestinian political prisoners and their treatment under military law; the Israeli infrastructure of occupation and apartheid – walls, security zones, check points and much more.

Why should we come?

Palestinians enjoy welcoming foreign guests to participate in the procession to the Church lead by Palestinian scout groups from all over Palestine and Israel accompanied by the music of horns, bagpipes and drums. However, Christmas is experienced differently Bethlehem, providing an example of how Palestinians enjoy such occasions while living under the Israeli military occupation which imposes sever hardships on the people, restricting their freedom of movement, their livelihoods and economic and social well-being.  Sadly, the occupation and its policies have turned Bethlehem in to a ghetto around which Israel continues to tighten the noose with its encroachment and development of settler colonies, ‘Jewish only’ restricted roads and security zones, checkpoints and military installations.  In fact, Israeli controls 90% of tourism into Bethlehem.  Christmas in Palestine is an opportunity to visit Palestine, to make a contribution to this vibrant community during the Holiday Season and witness the reality of occupation.

May we all have a Merry Christmas.

Tunisia back on the tourism trail

Tunisia back on the tourism trail

Tunisia looks to be recovering the tourist numbers it lost following the 2015 terrorist attacks in Sousse, while jobs and FDI are also rebounding thanks to a batch of reforms. Sebastian Shehadi reports.

Tunisia back on the tourism trail

Sebastian Shehadi | 11/10/2018

 Three years after the 2015 terrorist attack in Sousse, Tunisia is on track to achieve 8 million tourist arrivals in 2018, which would be higher than the figure in 2014. Correspondingly, FDI figures in the first half of 2018 have also increased.


Around 3.2 million tourists travelled to Tunisia between January and June 2018, a 26% rise on the same period in 2017 thanks to a 60% increase in European visitors, according to Reuters.

The return of tourism, a key pillar of Tunisia’s economy, is also reflected in a spending spree by luxury hotel chains in the past nine months. In late 2017, when Four Seasons Hotel Tunis first opened its doors, the Ritz-Carlton announced plans to construct a $129m hotel in the country, while the Movenpick Hotel du Lac Tunis announced a project in early 2018, and Anantara Tozeur Resort is due to open later in 2018.

Investment up

As well as tourism, foreign investment into Tunisia climbed by 16% in the first five months of 2018 compared with the same period in 2017, according to a report published by Tunisia’s Foreign Investment Promotion Agency (FIPA).

“The increase in FDI is principally due to security stability improvements and the new investment law, effective since April 2017,” says Khalil Laabidi, general manager of FIPA. He adds that this has stimulated investment by simplifying procedures for investors, offering better legal protection and directing FDI into priority areas such as hi-tech industries and projects that create jobs for young people, especially in the interior regions.

Jobs created from greenfield FDI have surged during the first half of 2018, with 3431 new positions in Tunisia, marking almost double the annual figure since 2014, thanks to several large investments in hi-tech industries, according to greenfield investment monitor fDi Markets.

In May, Algeria-based Condor Electronics invested in a television assembly plant that will create 1000 jobs, while Germany-based cable manufacturer Leoni expanded its plant in Messadine by creating 1200 new jobs. In the automotive OEM sector, China-based Dongfeng Motor Corporation plans to establish a new assembly plant in a joint venture that will create 864 jobs.

“FDI in Tunisia is very substantial in the manufacturing sector, especially in electronics, automotives and aerospace. However, FDI is also strong in the service sector and ICT,” says Mr Laabidi.

Business centre

The main source of greenfield FDI into Tunisia since 2003 has been in the business and finance sector, which has attracted 82 projects in that timeframe, followed by 40 projects in IT services, 29 in fossils fuels, 24 in electrical components, and 24 in hotels and tourism.

Tunisia is aiming to become a regional technological leader for its industrial sector. In November 2017, the Tunisia Investment Forum showcased the progress being made in implementing new technologies in automotives, mechatronics, agri-business and pharmaceuticals.

Meanwhile, progress in the renewable energy sector is being made. Most of 2017’s greenfield FDI went into renewables, following major investments from Belgium-based WindVision and China’s Sinoma Energy Conservation, according to fDi Markets.

This wave of investment could be attributed to a new Tunisian law on the development of renewable energy, effective since May 2015, which permits the export of electricity made from renewables. The Tunisian government is aiming to increase the share of renewable electricity generation to 30% by 2030.

Rated highly

Most FDI into Tunisia comes from France, which has invested in 128 greenfield projects since 2003, followed by 37 projects from Germany, according to fDi Markets. France’s prestigious Insead Business School ranked Tunisia first in north Africa in terms of talent competitiveness, according to its 2017 Global Talent Competitiveness Index.

“Currently, our will is to diversify our partners [when it comes to] FDI origin. For instance, one of our major objectives is to [do more business with] Asia and the Far East,” says Mr Laabidi.

Tunisia’s business leaders are relatively optimistic, with 77% of chief executives having either positive or very positive expectations of local business conditions, according to Oxford Business Group’s ‘Business Barometer – Tunisia’, which surveyed more than 100 CEOs in Tunisia in early 2018.

This article is sourced from fDi Magazine

fDi Magazine


Ramblings of an Arabic Student in Tamazgha

Ramblings of an Arabic Student in Tamazgha

Many tourists come not just for sand baths but also for breath-taking sunsets over Merzouga’s shifting sand dunes in the Moroccan desert. So why are Merzouga’s sands therapy for Tourists ?  This write-up could do well with the following article of one student’s capricious, bumbling, and sometimes fun journey through the Arabic language (with some Spanish and French thrown in for fun) dated  is about all those ramblings of an Arabic student in Tamazgha.Tamazgha, being these days, the in-word in all North African countries, point towards their historically ancient Berber origins. A world that spans lands all the way from Merzouga and Ouarzazate to the western shores of the Nile River. Both of these are the object of this beautiful narrative that managed only but a few Comments. None of them in Tamazigh. Anyway, here is that article.

Ramblings of an Arabic Student

Ouarzazate, Merzouga, and the Sahara desert (aka sand, camels, and more sand)

When most people think of Morocco, they probably don’t know too much about the country. Maybe they conjure up vague images of deserts or colorful market squares, or some couscous and a man wearing a fez. All of these do exist in some fashion, although Moroccan culture is definitely more rich and varied than its stereotypes. But the standout symbol that most people associate with Morocco is a camel, and the typical Bedouin nomad, scarf-wearing people that ride them into the desert,  à la The Arabian Nights. I’m usually not one for overly touristy experiences, but I had heard that the Sahara desert was an unforgettable experience. To that effect, a few friends and I headed to Ouarzazate and Merzouga, two cities near the edge of the Sahara desert, this past weekend. Once there, we did the typical touristy camel trek into the desert, stayed overnight in tents to look at the stars, and headed back early in the morning. This trip had been on my Morocco bucket list for a while, and I’m glad to say that it didn’t disappoint.

We departed from Marrakesh early Saturday morning, and headed through the high Atlas mountains. I was surprised by how much green vegetation there was growing high in the mountains. Sometimes you could even see snow at the top.


Passing through the Atlas mountains

Our goal was to reach Kasbah Ait Benhaddou, a small village that was an historic outpost along the caravan route between Marrakesh and Merzouga for desert traders. It is now a UNESCO world heritage site, with lots of red clay buildings. Sadly, it was a bit of a disappointment, as the city has almost entirely been made into a tourist stop, with lots of people selling overpriced scarves and trinkets. It has also been a filming site for lots of Biblical/Middle Eastern blockbusters, including Jesus of Nazareth, Lawrence of Arabia, and Gladiator. The view from the top was still pretty awesome, though.

After Ait Benhaddou, we made a quick stop in Ouarzazate, which has also been a film set for many famous movies. There’s even several film studios and a movie museum that has parts of old film sets. We also briefly drove through the center of town that’s known for its Rose Festival, which mainly manifested through a lot of small roadside shops selling violently pink rose-scented products.

That evening, we dumped our bags and slept at a small auberge (like a hotel) near the Dades Valley. The next day, we again started early, and went for a short hike through the Togoda canyons. On one roadside stop, we saw “الصحراء صحراؤنا” (The Sahara is our Sahara) carved into a mountainside, an ever-present reminder of Morocco’s claim over the Western Sahara.

It was almost evening when we arrived in Merzouga, with just enough time for us to drop our bags and head out to meet our camel caravan. We then trekked for about an hour and a half through the Erg Chebbi dunes (the second highest sand dunes in the world), just in time to disembark at our camp and climb the dunes to watch the sunset.

My camel’s name was Omar, and at first, our relationship did not get off to a good start. He made his displeasure known by grunting loudly as I climbed onto his back, although he eventually settled down once we started moving. Riding a camel is not exactly the most pleasant experience– it’s a bit bumpy, and sometimes I felt like I was going to fall off, but luckily there was a pommel on the front of the saddle you could hang on to. However, the view was absolutely amazing– the sand dunes rolled on in all directions, looking like frozen waves. It almost felt like we were on the moon, since the landscape was so dry and alien. We climbed to the top of a dune, which was much harder than I expected, and gave me a great appreciation for the camels’ two-toed, padded feet that kept them from slipping in the sand. As the sun set, you could see the sand slowly change color, going from gold to yellow to a light pink glow.

Our Berber guides cooked us dinner, and we sat around a fire to look at the stars (although unfortunately, there weren’t many since it was cloudy). It was pretty amazing to walk out out of the tents and be surrounded by silence and sand in every direction.

The next day, we left the camp at 5:30 a.m. Omar voiced his frustration about our early departure with another moan, and I agreed with him, although I was slightly less vocal about it. The good thing was that this gave us time to watch the sun rise over the dunes. We made it back to Merzouga for a much-appreciated shower and breakfast.

The last part of our journey, however, was a bit of a long haul. In a series of long bus rides, we made it about 675 kilometers (about 420 miles) from Merzouga back to Agadir, which I think has got to be a record for the longest I’ve traveled by car in a single day.

The 7 wonders making Dubai rank above Paris and New York

The 7 wonders making Dubai rank above Paris and New York

AMEinfo published an article based on a recent Statista chart that shows Dubai is ahead of Paris and New York. This chart has itself introduced the latest Euromonitor data, as cited by WEF, revealing the most visited cities in the world for 2017. This article written by Dana Halawi, Senior Journalist listing the 7 wonders making Dubai rank above Paris and New York is republished here.

7 reasons why Dubai ranks ahead of Paris and New York in tourism

February 1, 2018 5:04 pm



Paris is home to amazing landmarks such as The Champs Elysees, Tour Eiffel, the Louvre and designer boutiques along the Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré.

New York, on the other hand has Trump Tower, Times Square, the Status of Liberty, Central Park and Broadway.

Are they getting their share of tourists?

Sure, but much less than Dubai!

Statista, the statistics portal, reveals that Dubai has beaten Paris and New York with its number of yearly visitors in 2017.

Some 15 million people spent at least one night visiting the city last year compared to 14.4 million for Paris and 12.7 million for New York.

How did Dubai accomplish this?

7 Dubai attractions that beat New York and Paris

1– Burj Khalifa: The world’s tallest tower naturally dominates the Dubai skyline. The view from the observation deck on level 124 is absolutely stunning, topped only by the view from the luxurious At The Top Sky Lounge on the 148th floor. Located at the base of the iconic Burj Khalifa and just outside the doors of the famous Dubai Mall, the Dubai fountain features the world’s largest choreographed fountain system. Close to Burj Khalifa is the Dubai mall which has over 1200 shops with an indoor theme park, an ice rink, a huge indoor waterfall and the giant Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo.

2– Palm Jumeirah is one of the largest artificial islands in the world. Locals and tourists alike enjoy the Palm’s vast array of high-end hotels, including the Waldorf Astoria, Fairmont, One&Only, Jumeirah Zabeel Saray and, and most notably, the iconic Atlantis, The Palm.

3– The Walk and Beach at JBR: For those who like to shop, dine, see a movie and go to the beach all in one place, consider a trip to The Beach opposite JBR. It’s an area buzzing with activity with a regular open-air cinema and a popular water park to entertain the little ones for an hour or two. Also, the Dubai Marina Yacht Club consists of four enchanting marinas and offers a virtual centre of sailing, shopping, and distinctive dining.


Courtesy of

4– The Dubai Opera: Located in Downtown Dubai, Dubai Opera is the radiant centre of culture and arts in Dubai. With its unique 2000-seat multi-format theatre, Dubai Opera is a definitive international destination for performing arts and world-class entertainment productions.

5– The Dubai Shopping Festival (DSF): Dubai hosts the biggest shopping event in the region on a yearly basis offering people an unlimited number of offers, sales, promotions and an endless list of activities.

6– The DP World Tour Championship, Race to Dubai: It is a golf tournament on the European Tour. It takes place at the Jumeirah Golf Estates in Dubai. The title sponsor is DP World, a shipping company based in Dubai. Around $7,5 million are paid to the top 15 players with the Race to Dubai winner getting $1.5m.

7– Dubai Creek: The Creek is the original centre of the city’s commerce and still buzzes with boats traveling regularly. Dubai Creek divided the city into two main sections – Deira and Bur Dubai. Bur Dubai, the historic district, is located on the western side of the Dubai Creek and Deira. Among famous activities in this area are the Gold Souk, Dubai Heritage Village, Dubai Old Souk, and Dubai Museum.


Dana Halawi has over seven years of experience in Journalism with articles published in multiple magazines and a newspaper in Lebanon. She specialized in Banking and Finance at the Lebanese American University and has a Master’s degree in International Affairs.

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Dream Red Sea on shore mega Smart City

Dream Red Sea on shore mega Smart City

Saudi Arabia under the leadership of its young crown prince Salman looks as if undergoing tremendously frantic changes that were for a long time resisted to.  This  article published by AME info of October 26, 2017 is written by Hadi Khatib.  This latter is a business editor with more than 15 years’ experience delivering news and copy of relevance to a wide range of audiences. If newsworthy and actionable, you will find this editor interested in hearing about your sector developments and writing about it. Saudi Arabia has elected to relieve itself from “addiction” to its oil dependence by opting for large and strategic developments projects. One of these is this dream Red Sea on shore mega smart city ; here is how Hadi Khatib sees it.

The picture above is of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Klaus Kleinfeld sign documents after Kleinfeld was appointed as NEOM’s Chief Executive Officer, in Riyadh. Reuters UK.

The Red Sea appeal grows with a $500bn Saudi non-oil idea

Something about the Red Sea is luring Saudi money away from now shelved mega projects and into greener pastures, but there is nothing wrong with fluid ideas like these to prove that the Kingdom is making a clean break from an oil-dependent past.

NEOM is not just another city development. In fact, it’s a $500bn super mega project on the Red Sea coast located at a strategic junction linking 3 countries, Saudi, Egypt and Jordan, and connecting Asia, Europe and Africa.

NEOM is raising eyebrows from observers who can’t fathom where the money will come from, during times of rationing resources and austerity measures.

First, is this wishful thinking?

A dream in the making

It was during the Future Investment Initiative, an event by Saudi’s Public Investment Fund (PIF), that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said: “This project is not a place for any conventional investor […] This is a place for dreamers who want to do something in the world.”

Klaus Kleinfeld, former CEO of Siemens and Alcoa, was picked to be at the helm as CEO of NEOM.

Giving a hint of the funding’s source, the Crown Prince indicated the country’s sovereign wealth fund PIF as well as local and international investors who will jump in the fray.

The PIF has now approximately $230bn of assets under management (AUM), but Yasir Al Rumayan, Managing Director of PIF, told Bloomberg at the same event that the Kingdom’s fund aims to have at least $2trn of AUM by 2030.

He added that the sovereign wealth fund was targeting investment returns of 8 to 9 per cent.

An event statement described the project as a 26,500 sqkm zone, to be powered entirely by renewable energy. It will focus on energy and water, biotechnology, food, advanced manufacturing and entertainment.

This project portrays Saudi in a completely new light and positions the Kingdom as an international partner in innovation, trade and sustainability.

This follows a July 2017 announcement that another Red Sea project will cover 50 islands and 34,000 square kilometers and be developed to attract luxury travellers from around the globe and be as well financed by the PIF. “The project will create as many as 35,000 jobs and contribute $4 billion to Saudi Arabia’s gross domestic product,” said a PIF statement then.

This attraction towards seaside developments makes sense from tourism and investment perspectives and cements the strategic direction of the Kingdom away from oil and into investment-fueled schemes.

After all, from building an entertainment city to lifting the ban on women drivers, providing full ownership rights to foreign companies operating on Saudi soil and the right to purchase a ten per cent stake in Saudi owned companies, lifting the ban on VOIP, and IPO-ing five per cent of Aramco’s shares, we’re looking at the tip of the iceberg for just some of the projects that Saudi is undertaking to diversify its income.

But at what cost?

Unfinished and shelved

Reuters published a scathing report this year saying that Saudi was ordering its ministries and agencies to audit unfinished infrastructure and economic development projects worth billions aiming to either shelve, postpone or restructure them.

“Riyadh’s Bureau of Capital and Operational Spending Rationalization, set up last year to make the government more efficient, is compiling a list of projects that are under 25 per cent complete,” sources told Reuters.

Earlier this year, Saudi Finance Minister Mohammed al-Jadaan said that the Kingdom saved $21.33 bn through the bureau’s efficient procedures.

The majority of these developments are leftover works from boom years, when oil money was plenty and attitudes towards efficiency were more relaxed.

“In a report at the end of last year, it (Saudi Government) estimated the cost of completing all capital spending projects currently underway at about SAR1.4trn ($381bn),” said Reuters.

It said that consultants Faithful+Gould estimated that at least $13.3 billion of government projects were at risk of being cancelled in Saudi Arabia in 2017, because of fiscal pressures and changing government priorities.

“The government is likely to prioritize projects with strong social welfare and business justifications […] while less essential projects such as sports infrastructure, transport systems and perhaps nuclear energy could be cut back,” it said.

Ongoing projects

According to a BNC Report on Ongoing Mega Projects commissioned by the Big 5 Saudi 2017 organizers dmg events, Saudi’s top 10 construction projects are worth a collective $92 billion.
Of these are included Jeddah’s 1km tower, valued $1.8 billion and due for completion by March 2020, as well as Mecca’s Abraj Kudai Development, valued at $3.5bn and due for completion by end 2017, which coincides with Mecca’s own $17bn expansion project.

Read more in the original document.