Saudi Arabia’s Tourism; Mega Projects and a New Vision of Openness to the World

Saudi Arabia’s Tourism; Mega Projects and a New Vision of Openness to the World

Dubai’s Arabian Travel Market (ATM) is an opportunity to promote Saudi Arabia’s tourism products, services and destinations, as well as its tourism investment opportunities. The annual world-renowned event also contributes to building up fruitful and constructive relations between national tourist companies and their counterparts.

The Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage (SCTH) has is keen on participating in this distinguished activity, and this year the SCTH pavilion will be a platform for more than 60 institutions working in the tourism sector in Saudi.

SCTH’s pavilion will feature mega tourist projects that were announced previously; including NEOM, the Red Sea, Amaala and the Development of Dar’riya Gate.

Several partners of the SCTH, from the public and private sectors, are participating including the General Authority of Civil Aviation, King Abdullah Economic City and the Riyadh Chamber, as well as Saudi hotels, aviation companies, travel agencies and trip organizers.

The Saudi pavilion at Dubai’s ATM will reflect the culture, heritage and history, while showcasing the deployment of modern technologies in the tourism sector.

Presentations highlighting the environmental diversity, and cultural development of the Kingdom, vivid photos for tourist destinations and Saudi World Heritage Sites registered in the UNESCO will be also displayed at the pavilion.

The Saudi pavilion also includes a platform that provides briefing on the tourist visas related to events that are held in synchronization with the 2019 Saudi Seasons.  SCTH launched the Saudi Seasons with a new vision and style.  It includes 11 seasons that cover most of the regions of the Kingdom with local and international events and programs.

Saudi Arabia views the tourism industry as a key pillar for diversifying local products, and a futuristic alternative for oil, and a main provider for job opportunities.

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, with the awaited announcement to launch tourist visas through flexible electronic systems, and with its unique tourist features, will be an important destination for international tourists through the Kingdom’s distinguished environmental, cultural and heritage diversity.

The tourism and entertainment industries, are an important and essential part of the Saudi Vision 2030, especially that the Kingdom has a versatile tourist destinations, which include several coastal sites, marvelous islands and distinguished heritage areas, which can make one of the tourist and entertainment attractions in the Middle East just within a few years.

In figures, mega tourist projects the Kingdom, represented and implemented by the Public Investment Fund, spread over an area of more than 64,634 square kilometers, with a value exceeding $810 billion.

These schemes include the Qiddiyah Project, holding an area of 334 square kilometers in Riyadh, with a value exceeding $10 billion.  While NEOM, in the western coast is over an area of 26,500 square kilometers with a budget exceeding $500 billion.  The third project is Amaala “the Saudi Riviera,” in the northern region with an area of 3,800 square kilometers, and developing islands in the Red Sea with a total area of 34,000 square kilometers.  In addition, SCTH will be developing museums in various Saudi regions, and preserving Saudi heritage with a cost of more than $1.3 billion.  Saudi Arabia foresees that the national tourism will significantly contribute to the gross domestic product as the most growing non-oil economic sector.  The tourism revenues increased to more than 193 billion Saudi riyals ($51 billion) in 2017, and to more than 211 billion Saudi riyals ($56 billion) in 2018.

The total number of inbound and outbound tourist trips in the Kingdom is expected to reach 62 million trips, where tourism revenues are anticipated to exceed 142 billion Saudi riyals ($37 billion) by the end of 2020.   Therefore, it is anticipated to rank as the 24th on the scale of tourist business environment, and 124th in the international openness of tourism, and the 60th in the travel and tourism competitiveness indicator.

Also, tourist facilities licensed by SCTH, have achieved a big growth over the past 10 years, especially in tourist accommodation.  In 2008, the number of tourist accommodation did not exceed 800 hotels, and hotel apartments.  In 2018 the number increased to 7,388.  The number of travel and tourism agencies went up from 589 to 2,414, with the presence of 633 tourist trips organizers.

The need for such services and activities will increase with the gradual expansion of tourist visas for foreigners of targeted countries within the next phase.

Saudi Arabia’s plan, represented by the SCTH, to support the tourism investment sector, is based on its strategic goals according to the initiatives of the national transformation program.  Increasing the tourist destinations and tourist sites, encouraging the private sector to invest in the sector, increasing and developing the hospitality facilities are just a few examples.  The achievement of these goals will have several economic outcomes and indicators, including the increase in tourist investments to 171,05 billion Saudi riyals, a rise in the number of hotel rooms to 621, 600 rooms and consequently,  as well as boosting the support of the sector in the gross domestic product to 3.1 %, and increasing the number of direct job opportunities to 1.2 million jobs, which will also contribute to boosting the Kingdom’s competitiveness and its entrepreneurship in the tourism field, especially that the participation of the private sector has a main role in achieving and realizing these goals.

In addition, and in relation to tourism investment, SCTH worked on enhancing the support directed to tourist projects in the Kingdom through offering government loans, where providing finance resources and financial support to projects in various tourist activities and services, is considered among the most important factors to stimulate the tourist investment, and a cornerstone for improving and rehabilitating the attractive investment environment.

In this regard, SCTH worked vigorously to cooperate with governmental finance institutions, to open finance channels for investors.  Among of which; the program for hotel and tourist projects loans in the Ministry of Finance; supporting the Kafalah fund and signing finance agreements, to benefit from them in alleviating the big costs of establishing and operating their tourist projects, where a total sum of 2.7 billion Saudi riyals was allocated to the initiative to hotel project loans, as a part of the SCTH’s initiatives in the national transformation program.  The finances of tourist and heritage projects investments in various regions of the Kingdom in 2018 reached 390,400,281 Saudi riyals.  While the costs of supporting institutions exceeded 2.1 billion riyals over the past two years.

SCTH also, offers technical and consultation support, to investors through establishing the service centers for tourist investment in regions of the Kingdom with a total of 17 centers.  They present all facilitations and services to investors, including information and data about the investment opportunities and coordination with stakeholders, as well as preparing guidebooks for investment opportunities; such as initial feasibility studies for projects with tourist characteristics that are suggested to be implemented in the regions of the Kingdom, and preparing a study titled (the tourist investment map in the Kingdom) that identifies the tourist investment opportunities.

With regard to benefiting from international expertise in the tourist field, the executive committee of the Saudi-Emirati coordination council has recently held its second meeting in Riyadh as part of activating the joint vision of integration between the two countries at economical and developmental levels.  The work is ongoing to develop a joint vision, related to tourism and national heritage between the two countries through partnership between SCTH and the Emirati Ministry of Economy, where both sides are keen on preparing organizational frameworks, between the two countries and attracting more tourists into the region, as well as creating programs for employment in the tourism sector and the best activation of joint tourist activities.

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