Saudi Arabia, France in tie-up to boost tourism

Joint archaeological digs to boost heritage tourism, better training for Saudi youth
Saudi Arabia, France in tie-up to boost tourism
A carved rose-coloured sandstone mountain in the Nabataean archaeological site of al-Hijr near the northwestern town of al-Ula, Saudi Arabia. (FAyez Nureldine/AFP/GettyImages)
By Staff writer
Mon 21 Nov 2016 09:04 AM

Saudi Arabia and France have agreed to cooperate to develop tourism in the kingdom, the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage said.

In particular, the two countries pledged to increase training to Saudi youth in the travel and tourism sector, and explore areas for Saudi-French archaeological teams to partake in joint excavations.

The new French ambassador in Riyadh, François Gouyette, met Prince Sultan bin Salman, president of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage (SCTNH) in the kingdom last week, the commission said in a statement on its website.

The statement said: “They reviewed cooperation in various areas including the development of tourism products, qualifying human resources via professional training in the areas of hospitality, and exploring the areas of Saudi-French joint teams engaged in the archaeological explorations in the kingdom.”

A report in Arab News noted that a team of Saudi and French archaeologists carried out digs at historical sites in Al Kharj. They discovered Stone Age, Bronze Age and Abbasid-era artefacts – a major breakthrough for the promotion of heritage tourism in an around Riyadh, the newspaper said.

During the meeting, said SCTNH, Prince Sultan also pledged the commission’s willingness to support investors, operators and hoteliers and provide new facilities to international hotel companies eager to enter the Saudi market.

The commission has already unveiled a new classification system for the hotels sector to improve service quality and transparency for tourists. It has also taken steps to increase employment of Saudi nationals in the industry.

Also present at the meeting was Gérard Pélisson, founder of French hotels group Accor, and the group’s chairman and CEO Sebasiten Bazin. Accor has a hospitality training academy in France and pledged to improve access for Saudi youth, the SCNTH statement said.

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