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Chairman’s Annual Report 2008–09

Sir Alan Munro

The Saudi–British Society held two evening talks during the year. The Hon. Secretary, Ionis Thompson, gave an entertaining account, with illustrations, of the visit she paid to the Kingdom with the Chairman in late 2007 with a group of British travel journalists, who were being introduced to the potential which Saudi Arabia offers for international tourism through its remarkable variety of cities, deserts and mountains, in their natural and modern environment. In March the British ambassador in Riyadh, Sir William Patey, gave a stimulating talk on change and the outlook for Saudi Arabia. His talk led to a lively discussion. On both occasions the event was followed by a reception, a feature which has been helped by the generous action of the Secretary-General, Dr. Afnan al Shuaiby, of the Arab-British Chamber of Commerce, that the Society may hold its evening talks sessions in their elegant premises in Mayfair. This gesture is much appreciated.

In January the presentation took place at the Institute of Directors of the Rawabi Holding Awards presented annually to two individuals who have made a major contribution to relations between our two countries. The presentation was made by the generous sponsor of these prizes, Mr. Abdulaziz al Turki and the awards went to two personalities from the literary and publishing world, Mr. Michael Rice and Mr. William Facey. The event was well attended by members and their guests and was followed by a buffet supper. The Society was also privileged to hold its Annual General Meeting in July 2008 in the Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia at the invitation of its President, HRH Prince Mohamed bin Nawaf al Saud.

There are several new members on the Society’s Executive Committee, both Saudi Arabian and British. Through the Committee contact is being developed with Saudi women’s groups and also with associations of Saudi students in Britain. The Society’s website is being expanded to help with these contacts. Plans are also well advanced for the Society to bring a group of members on a visit to various locations in the Kingdom in November of this year. The response to this initiative has been encouraging; the group will be led by Ionis Thompson and is being coordinated by The Traveller in London and a leading Saudi tour operator in Saudi Arabia.

The Committee is also engaged in dealing with a challenge to the Society’s finances. Not unexpectedly the problems in the financial markets have led to a reduction in revenue from the Society’s assets. This shortfall has been compounded by the cost of subsidy towards the annual presentation of the Rawabi Holding Awards during the past two years. Action is being taken to adjust the financial situation to take account of these circumstances. Measures in hand include the termination of the employment of a salaried Secretary, a small increase in the annual membership fee, and a reduction in the hiring costs for meetings. Any subsidy towards the award-giving event will also be reduced or even eliminated. These steps should enable the Society’s finances to be put on a sound footing. We are very grateful to Miss Lisa Bowcock for all her work as Secretary over the last 16 years.

Alan Munro


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