Interview: Mohammed Yousuf Naghi
How can the tourism industry leverage the expansion of King Abdulaziz International Airport (KAIA) and the newly liberalised visa regulations?
MOHAMMED YOUSUF NAGHI: In line with Vision 2030, Jeddah will be promoted to become a destination for entertainment and tourism, and a global commercial and logistics centre. With its beauty, heritage, location on the Red Sea, and proximity to Makkah and Medina along with historical sites such as Al Ula and Jeddah it is well position to achieve these goals. The expansion of KAIA, easing tourist visa requirements, and the development of services provide all the essentials needed to attract tourists. The increased number of tourists will create additional economic opportunities for Jeddah and accelerate the region’s economic growth. We are especially targeting tourists from Saudi Arabia and the MENA region, as well as international visitors. One segment with significant potential is health tourism, as the city is the access point for millions of pilgrims and Umrah visitors who can use the city’s well-equipped hospitals to receive specialised treatment.
In what ways can intermodal transport centres like Jeddah Islamic Port boost trade flows?
NAGHI: Jeddah has the two largest sea ports on the Red Sea and one of the largest international airports in the region; our intermodal transport has attracted more than 70% of the Kingdom’s total imports and over 23% of Saudi light industry is based in Jeddah. The fact that Saudi Arabia is the largest market in the region and Jeddah is located on the Red Sea near Africa make us a competitive candidate to be an international logistics hub. Multinationals can use Jeddah as a gateway to MENA and African markets, and we are facilitating this by amending many of the previous laws and regulations related to warehousing, logistics, visas, trans-shipment and reshipment to enhance investment and freight flows. Adapting to a digital economy is necessary in order to become a logistics centre, and as such we are targeting e-commerce. International and domestic e-commerce companies can find everything they need to establish a company including warehousing capacity, an environment conducive to doing business, and a modern digital network.
What is being done to encourage entrepreneurship and new businesses in Jeddah?
NAGHI: Creating a friendly business climate for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to flourish is a key objective of Vision 2030. The government has launched a dedicated programme called Monshaat, with the responsibility to recommend the amendment of laws and regulations. As a positive result of this programme, the new procurement law now gives them certain advantages while addressing challenges.
The JCCI’s role is to work with large, Saudi conglomerates to become an incubator for private companies. We have spent years drawing ideas from best practices in countries such as Singapore, South Korea and Japan, and have applied these ideas at home. We are giving exposure to new projects that are trying to gain a foothold in the business landscape.
To what extent can public-private partnerships (PPPs) be utilised to meet growing demand for entertainment in the Kingdom?
NAGHI: The entertainment sector is still relatively new in Saudi Arabia, and it is becoming more and more important to tourism and the economy as a whole. It is aligned with the government’s focus to undertake projects that enhance the confidence of the private sector, and we are confident that sentiment is such that PPPs will develop as an important investment vehicle. Jeddah has the ability to become an international centre for exhibitions and expositions. There are many international connections to KAIA, making the city an accessible destination for business tourism, a segment which has significant potential for growth.
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