By Joanna Hartley
Kingdom plans to encourage more locals to holiday at home, says tourism chief.
Saudi Arabia plans to attract 88 million tourists and generate more than SR101bn ($30bn) in tourism revenue by 2020, it was reported on Sunday.Prince Sultan bin Salman, president and chairman of the board of Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities said plans were part of a new national tourism strategy that would be released in full by the end of the year.
The plan was aimed at increasing employment opportunities for nationals and small to medium-sized private sector companies, Prince Sultan said in his presentation at the Arabian Hotel Investment Conference in Dubai.
The kingdom estimates visitor numbers to almost double from 47 million in 2008 to 88 million by 2020, while the number of hotel rooms is tipped to rise from 117,097 to 254,310.
As a result employment in the industry is predicted to grow from 1.1 million to 1.5 million, according to a report in Saudi daily Arab News.
“I think the numbers will be even more than these estimates. Tourism touches every service provider — for example, the government has approved bank financing to process loans to fund heritage projects (for small and medium size enterprises), and we will announce a national crafts and heritage industry plan to incubate projects in this sector,” the Prince said.
“In Jeddah alone, there is a project with Solidere to redevelop the historic centre while we have 17km of untouched beachfront in the city centre."
“The Red Sea will be one of the biggest growth areas with up to 21 new destinations — indeed, we will announce at least one or two of these new projects by the end of this year,” he added.
The biggest obstacle to the tourism strategy was encouraging Saudis to holiday at home rather than going abroad as they did at present, the Prince admitted.
The strategy would aim to capture five percent of the $10bn currently spent by nationals on trips out of the country, he added.
“We aim to capture five percent of this but with the trend to ‘holiday at home,’ this could be bigger — there is a large gap between supply and demand with areas such as weekend traffic showing major growth potential,” he told the conference.
Other tourism initiatives being undertaken in the kingdom include the launch of eco-lodges and farm hotels, as well as heritage accommodation: “We have already started licensing several projects in these areas, and are talking to some of the major hotel chains about these things.”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.
I am happy to see the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia working on increasing tourism. However, would it be logic for them to see how can they grant visas to tourists become possible?? We as business people even suffer to obtain a visit visa. I am not sure that the country is even ready for it unless they are talking about tourist people who are living in the Kingdom only. Despite the two holly places in Saudi, what other attractions for tourists are there? Not to sure, but again, best of luck.