Having announced the launch of an e-tourist visa and the expenditure of billions of dollars in new tourism projects and infrastructure, Saudi Arabia says it is opening up the kingdom to international tourists for a developmental purposes.
The announcement came during a huge ceremony organized by the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage (SCTH) which was held in the capital Riyadh at the Unesco-listed Ad-Diriyahon on Friday night.
The ceremony coincided with World Tourism Day and was attended by a large number of international tourism players and investors including the Secretary-General of the World Tourism Organization Zurab Pololikashvili and President and CEO of the World Travel & Tourism Council.
“The Kingdom at this historical moment opens its doors to the world. Of course, we are a people welcoming the visitor and honoring the guest, so emanating from this point, tourists will see that hospitality, hospitality, generosity, beauty of nature and civilization depth as important elements in our country,” Chairman of the Board of Directors of SCTH, Ahmad Al-Khateeb told the global tourism heavyweights on Friday night.
“Tonight, we don’t only open our doors to visitors, but we also welcome investors, business women and men, in the sector, where the great opportunities available to invest in the areas of tourism, and we are thus fulfilling the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 under the leadership of King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and the Crown Prince.”
“The sites registered on the list of World Heritage, represent some of the Kingdom’s rich cultural heritage and scenic tourist sites, pointing out that there are more than 10,000 historical sites that are also promising investment opportunities,” he said.
He confirmed too that visitors from all countries of the world can obtain a tourist visa. In the first phase, citizens from 49 countries will be able to get an electronic visa through the Saudi tourism website or upon arrival in the kingdom.
Saudi Arabia’s General Investment Authority (SAGIA) and the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage (SCTH) told attendees at Friday night’s ceremony that agreements with regional and international investors worth 115 billion Saudi rial ($31 billion) had been signed.
“In Saudi Arabia, the market fundamentals are in place for a vibrant tourism industry and we believe that the private sector will play a crucial role in unlocking this potential,” Ibrahim Al-Omar, Governor of SAGIA told the congregation.
According to the National Tourism Strategy, the Saudi government is expecting 100 million visits per year by 2030, compared to about 41 million at present.
By 2030, the government is anticipating it will be one of the top five countries receiving foreign tourists from all over the world, with revenues of up to 10% instead of the current 3% of gross national income, while the number of jobs in the sector of tourism is expected to reach 1.6 million jobs compared to just 600,000 jobs right now.