Saudi Tourism Authority makes debut at Cannes Lions with a speech by CEO Fahd Hamidaddin

Saudi Tourism Authority makes debut at Cannes Lions with a speech by CEO Fahd Hamidaddin

“Travel is the enemy of Prejudice”: Mark Twain. That was the quote used by Fahd Hamidaddin, the CEO of the new Saudi Tourism Authority, at a packed Forum at the Palais for the start of Cannes Lions, the prestigious week-long creativity festival.

“We are experiencing a transformation which takes Saudi from being oil dependent to becoming a fully diversified hyper-growth economy that sits at the centre of the world – economically, socially and creatively as well,” Hamidaddin said.

In a 30-minute address attended by leading creatives from around the world, he said: “Storytelling is something that Arabia has always cherished, and creativity is the beacon of our future, it’s the beauty of imagination meeting innovation.”

Transformation to modernisation

Nearly 70 percent of Saudis are under 35 and if you think you know the Kingdom, think again. Even Saudis living in Saudi don’t recognise Saudi anymore, he said. Saudi’s transformation to modernisation is driven by these young people and it what keeps him up all night. To create a future for the coming generations.

“Young, talented, determined creatives, young women and men, that are willing to take risks, creatives that have not just open minds, and open hearts but open arms for all other worlds creators,” he said.

Hamidaddin went on to profile four women and three men who have started creative businesses in tourism, a small sample size given a spend of close to $1trillion dollars for Tourism CAPEX projects.

He went on to share cultural developments that have taken place in the Kingdom over the past few years highlighting the largest electronic festival in the world with over 600,000 attendees with headline legendary DJ Calvin Harris.

Strikingly, the kingdoms approach to tourism is to “analyse the world’s failures, not successes” pointing out overtourism and protecting biodiversity. While most people think of Saudi as a dessert, it also boasts the pristine Red Sea coast which is about 2,000km long.

Hefty price of sustainability

He went on to say sustainability is a big word that everybody talks about but not many do much. Not because of lack of will and good intention, but because it is difficult, and it comes with a hefty price. He said the fact that they are investing big here, is because they believe that eventually, they will be rewarded by the most rewarding travellers.

“One of the biggest challenges that the world is witnessing today is polarisation,” he said. “It’s okay to have disagreement. But that is different to polarisation. Ninety per cent of the world have only visited 10 per cent of the world. For example, when they go to France, most of them only go to Paris. We want to change this so that all of Saudi gets the benefit of tourism and all travellers get to see the beauty of the whole country.”

Hamidaddin then said with a heartfelt close: “With open hearts and on behalf of the Saudi people, we welcome you to the heart of Arabia.”

Fahd Hamidaddin, the CEO of the new Saudi Tourism Authority.

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