The Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Kuwaiti Tourism Enterprises Company, Muhammad Al-Saqqaf, said that the company intends to develop two tourism projects on the Kuwaiti island of Failaka and the site of the entertainment city in the Doha region, west of the capital, at a total cost that may reach 500 million dinars ($ 1.64 billion).
Al-Saqqaf said in an interview with “Reuters” that the company owned by the Kuwait Investment Authority, the sovereign wealth fund of Kuwait, is still at the beginning of studies and putting forward ideas “to see the most appropriate solutions for these two giant projects,” as the Failaka Island project covers an area of two square kilometers, and the entertainment city is 2.6 square kilometers. Square.
He explained that there are two possibilities for financing these two projects: to be undertaken by the Tourism Enterprises Company itself through the assistance of the General Investment Authority, or to participate in them with the private sector.
However, Al-Saqqaf added, saying that the participation of the private sector will be “very difficult” in light of the current Law No. 105, which allows the private sector to lease state property through contracts of only three years, subject to renewal, considering that this limited period is “not encouraging for the private sector” to participate. In projects with high financial cost.
He explained that the company does not have the option of borrowing to finance these two projects because it does not own the land, but rather benefits from it under a usufruct contract with the State Property Department.. “In the end, you do not own these lands, so how can the bank give you the loan?”
Many Kuwaitis complain that their country is suffering from a deterioration in its tourism facilities and the failure to renew or develop them for years, as the Corona epidemic crisis and the deprivation of many residents from traveling revealed the weakness and limited entertainment options in this country, which decades ago served as a role model for the rest of the Gulf countries.
During official holidays and in the summer season, many citizens rush to travel, in search of new places for entertainment abroad, as destinations such as Dubai, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey have become traditional destinations for Kuwaitis and their families. The new board of directors, which was formed last September, focuses on making entertainment initiatives that last for limited periods and have limited financial costs, through projects that can be implemented quickly.
Al-Saqqaf said, “We must have a calendar (for events).. Every month or two we have an event and renew it so that the entertainment is renewed and not boring.”
Over the past few months, the company has opened several initiatives of this kind, including the “Winter Wonderland Kuwait” project, which was held at the People’s Park site at the beginning of winter.
Al-Saqqaf said that the company seeks to make this project throughout the year and not for a short period.
The company also opened, coinciding with the World Cup activities in Qatar, the Container Park project, which is an entertainment event to display matches in the Blajat area in Salmiya, along with other entertainment activities such as games and musical shows. Al-Saqqaf said that the board of directors focuses on ensuring that the entertainment provided by the company serves all ages. He added: “Our goal is to provide entertainment for all age groups, not just one, but we are talking about domestic tourism, not foreign tourism.”--
He pointed out that, in this context, among the ideas put forward is that the entertainment city include chalets, artificial lakes, cafes, shopping stores, tennis courts, a cultural theater and other facilities that serve all groups, adding that “entertainment must have a cultural and social dimension.” .-
Al-Saqqaf explained that the Board of Directors had made “some amendments” to the previous strategy, according to which the company would have turned into a “holding company” under which companies specializing in restaurants, hotels, facilities management, and other companies would fall, which would divert it away from its primary destination, which is “providing entertainment for citizens.” and residents.”
He said, “It is not the best solution for the company to manage the facilities components in its projects, as this conflicts with the company’s directions to encourage the private sector, especially small and medium enterprises.”
He pointed out that the developed strategy focuses on involving the private sector in the company’s work, so that it focuses on the entertainment aspects and leaves the private sector to set up restaurants, cafes, health clubs and retail stores in the facilities it manages.
He pointed out that the review of the strategy resulted in stopping the project to rebuild Al-Khiran Park at a cost that would have amounted to 200 million dinars, and concluded that the “optimal solution” is to restore it at a cost of 25 million dinars only and in stages so that it does not stop working and “the financial income does not stop.” from the park.”
Al-Saqqaf explained that the company is currently focusing on restoring many of its existing projects, including the waterfront, which extends for about ten kilometers from the Kuwait Towers in the capital to Musannat Al-Shaab, at a cost of about 20 million dinars.
It also plans to restore the Green Island Park during the summer period, from May to October, with an estimated budget of five million dinars.
The former CEO of the company, Abdel-Wahhab Al-Marzouq, revealed in 2021 that the tourism projects intend to increase their capital by 250 million dinars, to reach 300 million dinars, to implement their projects.
However, Al-Saqqaf said that the current discussion between the General Authority for Investment and the Board of Directors about the amendments to the strategy resulted in a “temporary suspension” of the capital increase payments, considering that “the authority has the right to see the amendments and we agree on the new mechanism for (financial) pumping.”
Tourism Enterprises Company was established in 1976 with the aim of providing entertainment services inside Kuwait, and also aims to encourage the tourism sector in the country, and it manages various projects, including the Kuwait Towers and the Green Island.