By Karen Leigh
Luxury hotel plans to open three to five hotels in Saudi in the next few years.
Fairmont Hotels and Resorts will expand further into Saudi Arabia in 2012, north of Riyadh, capitalising on the Kingdom’s desire to expand its tourism industry.
“The government and other key partners in KSA are expending tremendous energy and capital to develop both the domestic tourism market as well business travel and religious tourism,” Chris Cahill, President of Fairmont Hotels & Resorts, told Arabian Business.
Fairmont plans to open another three to five hotels in Saudi in the next few years. The luxury hotel currently owns the Makkah Clock Royal Tower hotel in Saudi, two hotels in Dubai and the Fairmont Heliopolis and Towers in Cairo.
In February, the country signed $89m worth of tourism contracts as it attempts to diversify its economy away from oil and to create jobs. The unemployment rate is as high as 43 percent for Saudis between the ages of 20 and 24.
Saudi Arabia received 1.8 million visitors last year from 181 countries for the annual hajj pilgrimage to Mecca, according to the Saudi Press Agency.
“We see great synergies between our properties in Makkah and Riyadh as well as our other hotels in Dubai, Cairo and Abu Dhabi.”
“Saudi Arabia is currently witnessing robust development and a regeneration of core business and entertainment districts is underway here in Riyadh. The influx of public and private investment is creating tremendous opportunity for both business and leisure travel,” Cahill said.
The Saudi government has been expanding the more liberal coastal city of Jeddah, underwent a controversial modernization of Mecca and has been working to develop its Red Sea coast as a haven for seaside resorts.
The Kingdom has been focusing largely on inter-Saudi travel, encouraging locals to travel to other parts of the country and not abroad. Its notoriously strict visa policies make it difficult to attract non-business tourists from the West, namely women.For all the latest travel news from the UAE and Gulf countries, follow us on Twitter and Linkedin, like us on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube page, which is updated daily.