Saudi Arabia Looks To Become Tourism Mecca
Saudi Arabia—with an eye toward becoming one of the world’s premier tourist destinations—may begin offering tourist visas.

The kingdom has long kept its borders virtually closed to outsiders. To visit Saudi Arabia now requires an invitation from a sponsor, and visas are only given to groups on a very limited basis.

Prince Sultan bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud, who heads the Saudi Commission for Tourism, told the Financial Times that a tourist program may begin in the fall.

Saudi Arabia is exploring numerous revenue-generating options to make up for its losses in oil income. Oil prices have been falling for years, resulting in hundreds of billions of dollars in income losses annually.

Aramco, the country’s massive oil producer, is readying for a 2018 initial public offering. Investments in water, renewable energy and hospitality properties are also broadening the kingdom’s portfolio.

To be sure, the recent meeting between King Salman and President Donald Trump has raised Saudi Arabia’s profile around the world, placing the visit as headline news and perhaps implanting the idea of more general, global citizen visits.

Prince Sultan informed the Financial Times that he has been advocating for broader tourism to his country for the past 17 years. Conditions now may be ripe. He has received funding for tourism projects throughout the nation. Visa costs seem to even have been set. They would cost $40 and be issued by embassies abroad.

Camel festivals, desert trips, ancient ruins, museums and, of course, cities such as Riyadh, Jeddah and Mecca are among the sights to behold.
—Thomas M. Kostigen

Impact Investors Cheer (And Fret) About Big Newcomers
Increasing numbers of large asset managers and other institutions are finding their way to the impact investment space, which means more capital and perhaps a boost to the market’s professionalism and credibility. But some of the sector’s traditional, mission-based investors also worry that this trend could dilute the “impact” half of the equation, reducing the market’s effectiveness as a force for social and environmental good.

A core group of just over 200 experienced impact investors expressed their views on the topic as part of the Global Impact Investing Network’s 2017 investor survey, released in May. The GIIN defines impact investments as those “made into companies, organizations and funds with the intention to generate social and environmental impact alongside a financial return.” This is different from the broader category of responsible investment, which encompasses a variety of strategies, such as excluding certain sectors (guns or tobacco, for example), or investing in companies that are improving their environmental, social and governance (ESG) standards or doing better than their peers—say, choosing the French energy company Total, which has added renewables to its bailiwick, over ExxonMobil.

“The entry of bigger names is bringing attention that could help to increase interest in impact investing; however, it could also result in disillusionment if the commitment to impact isn’t clear or if it takes a backseat to return,” one fund manager responding to the survey wrote. “Another risk is that after testing the water, these bigger players decide to decrease resources allocated to this area, ultimately making it seem faddish instead of a sustainable strategy.”

Just over 70% of survey participants, who reported a total of $114 billion in impact assets under management, believe that there is a risk of mission drift associated with the entry of large-scale financial firms. But the majority also felt that this trend will bring in expertise that will help professionalize the market (67%), inject much-needed capital (66%) and enhance impact investing’s credibility (59%).
—Carol J. Clouse