Irfan Iqbal Khan
  Editor-in-Chief
  Saudi Commerce & Economic Review   ikhan@chamber.org.sa

Smart Ventures

04.02.2014

I grow plants for many reasons: to please my eye or to please my soul, to challenge the elements or to challenge my patience, for novelty or for nostalgia, but mostly for the joy in seeing them grow. – David Hobson, Australian Opera Singer and Composer

A desert to be turned into a wide expanse of sprawling flora and fauna can only become a reality by progress in science and technology of today, and the vision and mission of planners. Saudi Arabia is all set to have the world’s largest botanical garden spread over 2.5 million square meters, the foundation stone of which was laid in Riyadh recently. This state-of-the-art botanical garden will give a boost to the tourism industry and also bring the Kingdom into the list of the world’s largest gardens.

Efforts of this magnitude speak volumes about the overall progress the country seems to be making. To add to the list of efforts is developing the beach on the East Coast at an expenditure of around SR34 billion. This will be another shot in the arm for the tourism industry. The project will create 37,700 direct jobs and a further 56,000 indirect and seasonal jobs.

Data from the World Trade and Tourism Council shows that travel and tourism investments in Saudi Arabia have grown at a CAGR of 5.8 percent since 2001 and are estimated to have reached SR20.55 billion by year-end 2012. Investment is further expected to increase at an annual rate of 6.7 percent to reach SR33.5 billion in 2020.

The Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA) has taken efforts to rehabilitate and preserve archaeological sites in the Al-Ula Municipality. The preservation and excavation of antiquities across Al-Ula, 350 km north of Madina is a great work taken up by SCTA since archeologists marked these sites as of high quality. This and many other such archeological wonders can be marketed internationally.

With a view to diversify the economy and increase employment and make Saudi Arabia a holiday destination for tourists, these projects will definitely bear fruitful results in times to come.

Apart from Tourism, the Kingdom is looking at less developed regions to industrialize them. Investment in small and medium enterprises alone is expected to grow to more than $70 billion by the end of 2015, with the government and banks providing much-needed funding. The sector's contribution to the Kingdom's gross domestic product could rise to 37 percent by the end of 2015 from 35 percent a year earlier; in line with forecast growth in the number of licensed SMEs to some 2.5 million by end-2015 from 1.97 million as of January 2014. Less developed regions also get SIDF loan worth more than SR4 billion. Our cover feature this month gives an insight into the country's industrialization efforts.

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Irfan Iqbal Khan
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