By Andy Sambidge
Supreme Commission for Tourism and Antiquities predicts 2.3m tourism jobs in next decade
Nearly 50 new hotels offering more than 14,000 rooms are expected to open in Saudi Arabia this year to cope with a huge increase in visitors.
Hotel properties valued at $7.3bn are set to start operations in the kingdom, with tourism officials expecting to see tourist numbers rise to 88 million over the next decade.
More than 2.3 million jobs are set to be created in the tourism industry in Saudi Arabia over the same period, according to the kingdom's Supreme Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA), which has inked more than SR334 million worth of tourism contracts in the past year.
Rising visitor numbers to Saudi Arabia are fuelled in part by the strength of religious tourism, with 3.8 million travellers visiting the holy city of Makkah for Hajj or Umrah in 2010.
The Makkah Chamber of Commerce and Industry recently issued license for the construction of 500 hotels near the Grand Mosque in Makkah, including one with 5,000 rooms.
This week, Marriott, Hyatt and Hilton announced the construction of 12 new hotels between them in the holy city.
Business tourism is also on the rise, with spending of more than $13bn on infrastructure committed in 2010.
On the back of the growth, which is set to more than double the number of hotel rooms from 120,000 to 255,000 over the next 10 years, a new hotel and hospitality show will debut in the country later this year.
The inaugural Hotel and Hospitality Show Saudi Arabia will be held in Jeddah in November.
"Saudi Arabia saw inbound tourism rise from 5.3 million in 2006 to 7.7 million in 2010, with Riyadh having the highest gross operating profit per available room in the GCC," said Frederique Maurell, exhibition director of the show.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.