SAUDI Arabia has major plans to develop its tourism industry in the coming years and the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA) has pledged to create a fund to finance tourist projects.
The fund is part of the SCTA’s strategy to attract $50 billion in investments and Prince Sultan Bin Salman, SCTA chairman said projects will focus on family tourism, medical treatment, shopping and sports tourism.
Around 1.14 million people were either directly or indirectly employed in the travel and tourism sector during 2009 and this is expected to rise significantly in the coming years as well as the amount of Saudisation within the sector has risen from 10 per cent to more than 26 per cent.
Prince Sultan went on to say that the kingdom could become the most important tourist destination in the region if tourism is given the same attention as other sectors of the economy adding that ‘tourism can generate more job opportunities than any other sector’.
The Prince said the SCTA has started the creation of five new museums in Dammam, Abha, Hail, Tabuk and Al Baha. The authority also recently launched an English language tourism magazine. A new sea port is planned for Al Laith and an airport for Al Gonfoza is among an estimated $14.6 billion, set to take place over the next 20 years including the building of a new facility at Madinah.
Prince Khalid Al Faisal bin Abdul Aziz, Amir of Makkah, said most of the Al Laith and Al Gonfoza municipalities infrastructure is completed and added that there will be other tourism projects within the two developments.
Prince Sultan recently inaugurated the new classification system for hotels and furnished flats in Makkah and Madinah cities.
Makkah currently has 966 hotels and 234 furnished apartments, which includes 12 five-stars and eight four-stars hotels.
In Madinah, there are 146 hotels and 243 furnished flats, including 14 five-star and 12 four-stars hotels and the Prince said the SCTA, through the classification regulation, mainly aims to develop the kingdom‘s hotel industry both for guests and also to attract future investment.
He added that the government is looking at tourism as a viable economic industry that can attract investments and provide more job opportunities.
In line with the plans to increase tourism and investment, the country’s Tabuk Provincial Tourism Organisation (PTO), has proposed the preparation of 11 tourism sites across the province and various staff training programmes are being carried out across the wider tourism industry.
By LIZ O’REILLY
TTN is the most established trade publication in the Middle East distributed on a controlled circulation basis to members of the travel and tourism industry.
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Every issue also contains a collation of international and regional news and topical features of interest to readers.