RIYADH: Al-Ahsa, the largest date palm oasis in the world, is generating a new era of prosperity following the launch of a new development authority.
On May 12, the Kingdom formed the board of the Al-Ahsa Development Authority, headed by Prince Ahmed bin Fahd bin Salman, deputy governor of the Eastern Province.
This decision aims to strengthen the potential of the governorate while helping to develop the tourism, heritage and cultural aspects of Al-Ahsa.
The authority will create a balanced and sustainable development environment that supports the governorate’s economy and promotes development, modernization and diversity, according to the state news agency.
“The decision reflects the leadership’s willingness to invest in Al-Ahsa’s comparative advantage and use it in economic projects that will align with Vision 2030,” said Ibraheem Alshekmubarak, secretary general of the Chamber. of commerce of Al-Ahsa, in an exclusivity. interview with Arab News.
The city of 1.3 million people was included in the UNESCO Creative Cities Network in 2018.
UNESCO said: “The city has an ancient tradition of craftsmanship, considered cultural and social practices passed down from generation to generation.
“About 50 expressions of handicrafts and folk art have remained throughout the city’s history and testify to the scenic richness of Al-Ahsa, including palm textiles, pottery, weaving and woodwork.”
The governorate hosts 36 weekly open markets and organizes several festivals a year.
“When we talk about tourism in Al-Ahsa, we are talking about agricultural, heritage and natural tourism,” Alshekmubarak said.
In February 2022, the Ministry of Tourism launched a high-level city investment conference called Destination Tomorrow.
The conference introduced Saudi destinations to local investors and international operators.
“After the pandemic, people are a bit more conservative internationally when it comes to cross-border investing. But we are proving to be a destination attracting quite decent interest,” Mahmoud Abdulhadi, Saudi deputy minister in charge of investment attraction, told Arab News.
The Kingdom aims to generate 10% of gross domestic product from the tourism sector and attract over 100 million visitors by the end of this decade, creating an additional 1 million jobs in the sector.
“We want to make the sector autonomous on its own two feet. We therefore want significant private sector investment to arrive, although we are aware that the whole sector is based on small and medium-sized enterprises,” Abdulhadi added.
The city’s Chamber of Commerce has spearheaded several initiatives to support SMEs, monitoring the sectors most affected by the pandemic to urge them to formulate plans and develop strategies that help them overcome the damage.
“The Al-Ahsa Chamber has organized a set of development initiatives and advisory services provided to entrepreneurs through the Prince Ahmed bin Fahd bin Salman Center for Business Development,” Alshekmubarak added.
The capacity of Al-Ahsa airport will more than double expectations for rapid regional growth, Fahad Alharbi, CEO of Dammam Airports Co., said in an earlier interview with Arab News.
The city’s airport has a capacity of around 400,000 passengers but aspires to reach 1 million, Alharbi added.
Saudi Aramco primarily uses the facility, but before the pandemic hit there was commercial activity from two or three local destinations and two or three other international locations.
“With the economic and tourism boom expected in Al-Ahsa, the development of Al-Ahsa International Airport is currently the most needed project,” Alshekmubarak said.
place of business
The town is already experiencing commercial growth, with the Ministry of Rural Municipal Affairs and Housing announcing in June that investment opportunities in the town had increased by 53% in 2021, with 362 options available on its online portal.
The total value of these investments exceeded SR275 million, Essam Al-Mulla, the mayor of Al-Ahsa, told Arab News.
Opportunities available on the portal in 2022 have already reached 112 investments, Saudi Minister of Municipal Rural Affairs and Housing Majid Al-Hogail said, according to the Saudi Press Agency.