|Arab News, Jeddah, Saudi
ArabiaMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News
April 15, 2011--Friday 15 April 2011
The first Saudi Excellence in Tourism Awards (SETA), organized by the Saudi Voyager and Terhal magazines as part of the Saudi Travel and Tourism Investment Market 2011 (STTIM) in Riyadh recently, succeeded in galvanizing the Saudi tourism sector and creating a state of positive competition amid a rising level of tourist services.
The SETA, held with the support of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA), has many objectives.
Although these objectives vary, all of them are aimed at enhancing the vital tourism sector of Saudi Arabia.
The SETA ceremony was organized by Alef International, publishers of the Saudi Voyager and Terhal magazines.
The awards aim to recognize achievements of various businesses and industrial activities within the growing tourism sector of the Kingdom, to motivate individuals and companies to achieve the highest possible standards, encourage the development and improvement of tourist products and services and further develop the tourism sector for the benefit of everyone, including companies and vacationers, who are visiting the Kingdom in increasing numbers as a result of its many tourist attractions.
Abdullah bin Salman Al-Juhani, VP, marketing and media, SCTA, said: "The Saudi Excellence in Tourism Awards are designed to create a spirit of fair competition between different sectors, improve tourism services in the Kingdom and shed light on the ongoing development in the Kingdom's growing tourism industry. The awards represent an annual recognition of the efforts of the companies and individuals working in the tourism sector over the whole year."
SETA, which was launched last year, includes eight categories covering various aspects of tourism, as well as a special award that is granted at the discretion of the SCTA president to those who have made important contributions to the Saudi tourism sector.
The awards are presented annually to distinguished individuals and companies working in the tourism sector.
Alef International, publishers of Saudi Voyager, organized the event in coordination with a number of companies and sponsors, such as The Economist, Injaz Development Company, Barbican, MEDGULF and the marketing committee in the Riyadh Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
Award winners in various categories were:
Best luxury hotel: Al-Faisaliah Hotel, which offers a truly five-star experience and has helped in raising the standard of hospitality in the capital. With its world-class dining choices and a high level of service, Al-Faisaliah has secured 23 international and regional awards for excellence.
Best domestic hotel: Avail Grand Hotel & Suite, which provides an Arabian experience and makes every effort to support the local community with initiatives, such as sponsorships for disabled, employment of Saudis, etc.
Best mid-market hotel: Park Inn, Alkhobar, which provides impressive and comprehensive information, including letters of thanks from clients and embassies.
Shopping and entertainment: Al-Faisaliah Shopping Mall, which offers many attractions, including branded stores and independent boutiques that are easily accessible and attract a large number of visitors.
Food and catering category:
Best fine dining Restaurant: The Globe, which has remained consistent in its high standards of service and facilities and a relaxed and welcoming ambiance. The restaurant holds a reputation of a tourist attraction on its own.
Best traditional food and catering: Alkhobar Heritage Village, which provides visitors an interesting insight into Saudi culture and heritage. During 2010, the heritage village obtained ISO international quality certification.
Best mid-market Restaurant: Steak House, which offers friendly and professional services. Its menu items are served attractively and are competitively priced. It has implemented smoke-free dining sections in all its branches.
Tourism industry category:
Best tour operator: Jawlah Tours Company, which offers an extensive range of historical and geographical heritage tours and has received several awards.
Best tourism attraction: Old Council Souk, which attracts thousands of tourists each year and is a model for other organizations keen to explore the benefits of quality tourism projects.
Best tourist guide: Khaled Al-Took, which received the highest number of online votes among all other tour guides in this category. He has helped develop awareness of tourism trips through social media and interviews.
Special contribution to tourism: Mohsen Al-Hokair Group, which has worked diligently to develop family entertainment and established around 50 entertainment sites across the Kingdom. In 2010, the group received the 'Chief Guides of the Arabs' award.
The President's Award was jointly presented to the municipalities of the Kingdom's various regions, who have significantly contributed to the development of tourism projects and architectural heritage in the country.
It was received on behalf of them by Prince Dr. Mansour bin Miteb bin Abdulaziz, minister of municipal and rural affairs, from Riyadh Gov. Prince Salman during the opening ceremony of the Saudi Travel and Tourism Investment Forum 2011.
Saudi Voyager, a quarterly magazine published by Alef International, with the support of the SCTA, targets a wide English-speaking audience comprising readers living both inside and outside the Kingdom.
The magazine's detailed coverage of the travel and tourism sector of Saudi Arabia focuses on all its aspects, such as, archaeological sites, heritage, festivals, travel, restaurants as well as other events and tourist activities.
There's also a segment of the magazine allocated specifically for the reader, where he can share his experience about his favorite places in the Kingdom.
Saudi Voyager is distributed to several expatriate communities as well as visitors to the Kingdom and Saudi embassies abroad.
In order to distinguish its level of publication from the rest, the magazine is subjected to international regulations of production and distribution.
According to Al-Juhani, the Saudi Voyager aims to bridge the gap created by the absence of English language publications on the subject of travel and tourism.
Explaining the content of Saudi Voyager, he said the magazine focuses on the diversity of the Saudi tourism sector and its tourist destinations, which vary from region to region.
"Voyager is mainly directed to the foreign communities living in the Kingdom and the non-Arabic speakers interested in the tourism sector. It enlightens the reader on the country's rich and diverse cultural and historical dimensions, heritage, history and the civilizations of the Arabian Peninsula during the different time periods. Additionally, the publication highlights the efforts of the commission and its prominent role in the development of national tourism," Al-Juhani added.
Terhal magazine has truly succeeded in meeting one of its goals of winning the confidence of the reader.
It has achieved what no other Saudi tourism magazine has achieved and has taken up the mantle of the ambassador for domestic tourism.
Although Terhal may not be the first publication that focuses on the tourism sector, it is indeed the first to raise awareness of this vital area.
The magazine, which is issued under the auspices of the SCTA, has been successful in maintaining its identity as a tourism magazine in terms of its layout and content, making a significant impact in defining and promoting the Saudi tourism sector through its various segments, with the help of Saudi professionals, who have designed the look of the magazine.
Terhal aims to present the many tourist sites in the Kingdom in an attractive and interesting manner, and help tourists to make their stay in the country more enjoyable and encourage them to broaden their knowledge of the country.
Terhal targets a broad audience in line with its belief in the role of the media in raising awareness of domestic tourism as an area that can grow and deserves attention from individuals, senior officials, companies, investment institutions and educational and social organizations among others.
A good part of its content is directed at the young generation, who would be keen on exploring the many possibilities of tourism activities here, such as camping, snorkeling, and other sports activities.
Terhal strives to become a talking point among friends, who would share their views and experiences about trips they have made, places they have visited or are planning to visit.
The judging process of the SETA was conducted in compliance with the highest standards of integrity and professionalism.
A panel of judges selected the winners based on a variety of factors as identified below.
The jury of the SETA appointed by the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA) has been fair and impartial and has left a positive impression on the minds of those who participated in the event.
The judging took place in Riyadh on March 1, where the panel of judges was especially brought together for the voting process. The jury constituted of eight leading national and international experts in the fields of tourism, hospitality, marketing and commerce.
Barry Gray, the chairperson of the judges' panel, explains: "The group of eight judges included two professors specializing in tourism from leading universities, and marketing and business experts -- both from within the Kingdom and outside. All the judges displayed an excellent knowledge of several aspects of the Kingdom's tourism sector. Several had previously judged various international events and were therefore experienced in the requirements as well as the challenges arising when reviewing nominations in an event of this stature."
He added: "Considering this is the inaugural awards event, in some cases very good nomination presentation packs were submitted. However, as you may also expect with the first staging and therefore the first judging exercise, there have been several learning points along the way. Indeed, the judges made several significant recommendations on submissions and nomination packs, which can be improved in the future."
According to Gray, the judges had a four-point criterion to review the nominations.
"These are: the information provided and quality of the nomination pack submitted by nominees, the judges' personal knowledge of the category or the nominee or their business, the number of votes received online on the website and the discussion between the judges on each category," he explained.
He said there was a lot of deliberation between the judges on each group of nominations.
Following this discussion and having made their individual decisions, each judge secretly provided a mark between 1 (low) and 10 (high) for the nominations most worthy of recognition.
These marks were collected and later totaled by the organizing committee.
These totaled points were what decided the short-listed winners. Even then more information was called for from the nominees obtaining the highest marks so that the organizers could be absolutely sure that their selection was appropriate.
Aside from Gray, the panel included Omar Abdullah Al-Mubarak, manager of licensing and quality management at the SCTA; Abdul Mohsen Al-Hijji, College of Tourism at the King Saudi University; Guy Wilkinson, hospitality consultant; Amal bin Yahya bin Omar Al-Sheikh, assistant professor of Leisure and Tourism at King Abdulaziz University; Leanne Arnold, director of KAMAR; Abed Bibi, independent brands adviser; and Sultan Mohammed Al-Malik, representative of the Riyadh Chamber of Commerce and Industry's marketing committee.
Commenting on SETA's future vision, Majid bin Ali Al-Sheddi, editor of Saudi Voyager and Terhal magazines, said: "The Tourism Awards aimed at motivating agencies and individuals to achieve the highest standards in relation to perfecting tourism services and to promote the continuous development at all levels of the tourism sector in the Kingdom. All the winners (companies and individuals) should be proud of what they have achieved based on the jury's decision because the awards reflect their seriousness in improving the level of services they provide, and their success in entering the awards race, which is indeed a race for the future."
Al-Sheddi said the SETA launch by the president of the SCTA came as an additional motivating factor in the development process of the Saudi tourism sector on the one hand, and honoring excellence in this important economic sector, on the other.
About the future of the awards, he said: "The jury recommendations of the SETA will serve as an important driver toward the growth and improvement of the second edition of the awards. The first edition was the first step in the building process that will grow and evolve over the coming years. We look to these awards as an incentive for institutions and tourism companies to provide quality services to citizens and ultimately contribute to the tourism industry."
Al-Sheddi said: "The first SETA has received wide acclaim and attention from all involved in the tourism sector, which is an indication that it will continue to receive greater attention next year as well, in terms of media coverage and the number of nominations that are expected to double."
About the launch of the second edition of the awards, Al-Sheddi explained: "We will carry out an early advertising campaign so that it reaches a wider segment of the contestants. We will also improve the categories in the coming years to include a broader range of tourism-related sectors, which will be more diverse so as to include the various segments of workers in this industry."
He stressed that the organizing committee welcomed any suggestions for the second edition of the awards so as "not to repeat the mistakes, if any, in the first edition."
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Copyright (c) 2011, Arab News, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
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