The event highlighted the role culture and youth play in the transformation story of Saudi Arabia.
MEPRA wrapped up its second KSA MEPRA Leadership Majlis this week, which brought together more than 150 industry professionals for a series of live virtual sessions over one afternoon. Communication leaders from Saudi Arabia, the region, and abroad explored the theme "Fit for the Future" and addressed the importance of organizations reinventing and reimagining their brand strategies as audiences continue to evolve and Vision 2030 takes hold.
Hosted by Souad Al Serkal, MEPRA Board Member and VP of Corporate Communications at Tabreed, the event welcomed speakers from the Saudi Arabia Ministry of Culture, Saudi Tennis Federation, SAUDIA Airlines, CARMA, Google, Bahrain Tourism & Exhibitions Authority, Ministry of Media, Government Communication Center of Saudi Arabia, UK Government, APCO Worldwide, UNESCO, Saudi Arabian Olympic Committee, and Saudi Esports Federation.
The opening session focused on the importance of creating a vibrant culture in Saudi Arabia with Dur Kattan, Deputy Minister of Communication and Media at the Ministry of Culture, Saudi Arabia; Khaled Tash, VP - Corporate Communications at SAUDIA Airlines; and Fatima Batook, Board Member of Saudi Tennis Federation & Saudi Businesswomen Executive Council & CEO Studio55 & TIMA®. The session was moderated by Fatima Al Sairafi, Deputy Chief Executive Officer at Bahrain Tourism & Exhibitions Authority.
During the panel, SAUDIA’s Khaled Tash spoke on the pivotal role culture and tourism play in achieving Vision 2030:
“When we look at what was planned for Saudi Arabia in Vision 2030, there was a very clear intention and a wide range of programs aimed at elevating the role that culture plays, not only socially but also economically. It’s in our DNA to be hospitable, authentic, and welcoming to other cultures, we just needed the framework to allow that to flourish. We are a very well-balanced country when it comes to keeping our tradition while also being open to other cultures,“ Tash said, adding, “When Saudi Arabia opened its doors for tourism to 50 different countries with three-minute online visa processes, the numbers were staggering. During the first few months, more than 400,000 tourists came to Saudi for the first time. Those numbers are testament to how important culture and tourism is to achieving Vision 2030.”
Dur Kattan, Deputy Minister of Communication and Media at the Ministry of Culture, Saudi Arabia, also reinforced the important role culture plays in Vision 2030.
“Vision 2030 is about unleashing the young generation and the creative generation, and culture is at the core of that. Vision 2030 has enabled the culture sector and creative industries to flourish and our goal at the Ministry is to have culture as a way of life, for it to become part of the DNA of the country,” he said.
Fatima Batook, Board Member of Saudi Tennis Federation & Saudi Businesswomen Executive Council & CEO Studio55 & TIMA®, spoke on how the young generation of Saudis was hungry for change.
“The amazing thing about our region and specifically Saudi Arabia is that we have a young generation, so we adapt to change very quickly. There is always some resistance to any kind of change regardless of age, but we were very ready in terms of accepting this change, we were hungry for it,” she said. “Since 2013, myself and other women of my generation were the ones taking bullets for the next generation when it came to females in fitness and sport. We fought the fight, we struggled, we pushed the boundaries, and we asked the questions. Not only for our personal benefit but for the benefit of the community, society, and country as a whole. When I was 13, watching the Olympics, thinking would I ever have an opportunity to be part of it - it was completely impossible. Fast-forward to today, it is encouraged, motivated, invested, and pushed for, so it’s a very different mindset today.”
Following the panel session, Mazen Nahawi, CEO of CARMA and SOCIALEYEZ, spoke on the importance for communicators to keep up with the transformation we are witnessing in the kingdom.
“Saudi super brands are coming. The way Emirates, DP World, and many other UAE brands have become global, Saudi Arabia has a very large number of corporate powerhouses that may become household names worldwide. Communicating for these future super brands will not be effective if it’s done with a traditionally local or regional approach. You need to think these are big global brands who are addressing global audiences, with different languages different hopes and dreams. Communicators have a big challenge to ensure they are supporting these super brands to meet their potential,” he said.
During the event, Christine Sarkis, External Communications Advisor for SAUDIA Airlines, was inducted as a MEPRA Fellow. MEPRA Fellowship is the highest grade of membership awarded for outstanding contribution to the public relations profession in the Middle East, through excellence in achievements and adherence to the highest professional standards.
The 2021 Virtual MEPRA Leadership Majlis was supported by CARMA and APCO Worldwide.