The Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority believes that tourism companies and Hajj-related customer service will provide a boost to the kingdom's economy
Saudi Arabia has seen approximately 500 entertainment-related companies establish themselves in the kingdom over the last year, according to Khaled Tash, the deputy governor for marketing and communication of the Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority (SAGIA).
“Entertainment is an up and coming, emerging sector,” he told Arabian Business on the sidelines of the Saudi International golf tournament last week.
“It’s an interesting sector, because it’s SMEs that add the most value in this sector, and in the last year we’ve seen 500 companies in entertainment alone be established,” he said.
Additionally, Tash said that he believes a significant number of tourism-related companies will establish themselves in Saudi Arabia in the near future.
As evidence of Saudi Arabia’s potentially lucrative tourism sector, Tash pointed to the eight week Winter Festival held in the kingdom’s Al Ula governorate, the site of Nabatean tombs carved into rock.
“We had amazing demand for people to go there,” he said.
Tash also said that the Saudi government and private companies see a potentially lucrative opportunities in improving services for the millions of people that go on Hajj and Umrah trips to the kingdom each year.
“We don’t like to call it a market, or to call it tourism,” he said. “It’s really a duty that we have, and it’s our duty to up the level when it comes to customer service. These are our customers.”
At the Future Investment Initiative summit held in Riyadh in October, Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Hajj and Umrah signed an agreement with Germany-based SAP to develop cloud technology to help cater to pilgrims.
A separate agreement was signed with Cisco Saudi Arabia to help improve the ministry’s digital infrastructure.
“These will digitise the pilgrim experience. That’s something very important,” Tash noted. “We’ve already seen a lot of progress in making the journey better. We want to move from 8 or 9 million pilgrims coming throughout the year for the previous two or three years to 30 million by 2030, so we’ll need to streamline the process and make it much easier.”
In mid-2018, Saudi Arabia, Malaysia and Indonesia announced the launch of the “Makkah Road Initiative”, a pre-clearance system that will help facilitate the journey of pilgrims to Saudi Arabia.
Tash added that, for the first time in Saudi Arabia’s history, government departments have been mandated to “find ways to engage investors.”
“If we look at the Ministry of Health, for example, up until recently they were given money from the government and they spent that money on providing healthcare,” he explained.
“Now, the game is changing. We are talking about privatising our healthcare system and providing insurance so that the private sector can help in making the healthcare experience better.”