December 15, 2020 5 min read
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This article is part of a series of interviews that LIRA Strategy Partners founder and Managing Director Raffaella Campagnoli is conducting with some of the Middle East’s most notable business executives and entrepreneurs. In this edition of Strategy Bites, she speaks with Golf Saudi CEO Majed Al Sorour on how he and his entity are going about facilitating the uptake of golf in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
Tell us about the enterprise you lead, its objectives, and its targets.
Golf Saudi formally launched at the end of 2018, and it is committed to facilitating the uptake of golf in the Kingdom, within the sporting framework of Vision 2030. Our goal is to support the delivery of world-class facilities, operational excellence and the implementation of international best practice, whilst harnessing the wider commercial opportunities within the world of golf.
My role as CEO of Golf Saudi began over two years ago, when we accepted the challenge set by the great leadership of both the Ministry of Sports and H.E. Yasir Al-Rumayyan, our Chairman and Governor of the Public Investment Fund (PIF), the sovereign wealth fund of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and Chairman of Saudi Aramco. So far it has been an exciting journey, and we are proud of what we continue to achieve within our mandate.
As a Saudi enterprise, how are you and your entity embracing Vision 2030?
Vision 2030 represents our source of inspiration and guidance towards our objective of improving the lives of Saudi citizens and developing the great game of golf in the Kingdom. Our leaders offered us the opportunity to cooperate with all the mega and giga projects, including Neom, Qiddiya, Diriyah Gate, Red Sea, Amaala, where, as an asset light company, we support them with the development of their respective master plans and the management of their assets.
A key part of our agenda is long-term sustainability, and to reach this goal, we are working with the Ministry of Agriculture to create an ecosystem of partners who can offer us the necessary expertise in areas including soil management, water treatment, as well as land efficiency when it comes to advising new developments.
Moreover, golf represents a great opportunity for our kids to learn something new. Together with the Ministry of Education we are developing programs that allow the young citizens of Saudi Arabia to learn not only to play golf, but also, for example, how to become an agronomist, how to become a caddy master, or how to specialize in golf course design. We are working on enhancing and transforming our culture, considering that golf has not really been part of our natural consciousness before.
What are the key changes you are seeing when it comes to the business landscape in the Kingdom?
We want to develop and bring the game of golf to all citizens of Saudi Arabia in terms of not just equality, something that we all strive for, but also equity. Equity means offering everybody the same opportunities and the same access to their surroundings. When we first launched our inaugural international tournament back in 2019, we invited some of the world’s best golfers, which allowed many Saudi citizens to meet these famous players for the first time, and witness their reaction as they visited our country for the first time. It was clear too that the players enjoyed their visit, and appreciated the natural beauty of the Kingdom, and the kindness of our people. So much so that some of them became official Ambassadors for Golf Saudi, going onto represent us globally.
As you know, last November we also hosted the Aramco Saudi Ladies International presented by Public Investment Fund: the first-ever professional women’s golf event to take place in the Kingdom, which has inspired Saudi women to take up an interest in golf. These are just some of the examples of the huge transformation that we are building here at Golf Saudi. We are confident that these efforts will inspire investors, developers and of course tourists to join us in Saudi Arabia, enthused by our values of equity and equality. Both the Ministry of Tourism and the Ministry of Investment are supporting us to bring our Crown Prince, HRH Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud’s vision to reality.
What impresses you most about Saudi Arabia’s plans for the future?
Our program is incredibly ambitious. We are building sustainable ecosystems allowing Saudi Arabia to meet its bold yet achievable blueprint for an ambitious nation. A process which will see the creation of 20,000 new job opportunities for our citizens.
As the leader of an enterprise, what are the things that keep you awake at night? Adding to that, what excites you most about what you do?
Overseeing such a huge transformation from scratch is not simple- although we have worked a lot on benchmarking and best practices, resources are limited, as they are for any organization. The COVID-19 pandemic presented new challenges: a lot of events were postponed globally; we now meet virtually rather than in-person. But with all challenges, there are opportunities. So, let’s meet again in 2030, and hopefully you will be able to tell me in-person all about the positive changes we’ve been able to enact over the past decade!