Saudi Arabia to focus on tourism initiatives

The government of Saudi Arabia is undertaking major initiatives to develop tourism in the country.

The country, which in tourism terms has been lagging behind other nations in the GCC because of cultural and other factors that are often at odds with recreational tourism, is now looking at ways of enhancing its tourism image. In particular, the government is exploring means to make Makkah, Saudi Arabia’s most popular tourism destination, a major tourist hub.

The government has also relaxed its traditionally conservative stance and is to sanction more recreational projects to attract tourists to the nation. According to prince Sultan bin Salman, chairman of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities, the nation is concerned by the low tourist inflows compared to other GCC nations and wants to enhance the status of Saudi Arabia as a prominent tourism hub for recreational activities.

The prince said that the government had already identified key issues that need to be resolved before the nation can be projected onto the region’s tourism map. The government is also expecting tourism to provide more job opportunities for its people.

Speaking to the Al Arabiya channel, prince Sultan said, ‘Saudi tourism is a big project. We need to develop infrastructure to promote tourism and we need greater private sector investment in the sector. We have already completed a number of projects for providing integrated tourism services. It will take time for us to complete some of the major projects.’

The prince also said that tourism would play a major role in creating more jobs and strengthening the national economy. He said, ‘Tourism is the second largest provider of jobs, accounting for 26 percent, and Saudis are happy to work in this vital sector.’