His excellency Ahmad bin Aqil al-Khatib has been appointed chairman of the Saudi Commission for Tourism & National Heritage.
Al-Khatib, who stepped into the role at the start of the year, has been handed the task of promoting Vision 2030, an ambitious scheme to diversify the destination away from oil revenue.
He has also been tasked with promoting the domestic tourism industry in Saudi Arabia.
Taking up the role, Al-Khatib said he hoped the destination could grow to welcome 30 million tourists annually.
Saudi Arabia is currently embarking on a series of investments to develop the hospitality sector, including the development if new hotels and attractions, as well as overhauling national carrier Saudia.
Saudi Arabia’s travel and tourism sector more generally is expected to contribute $71 billion to the country’s GDP in 2019, according to data from the World Travel & Tourism Council.
As part of his role, Al-Khatib last week met with Spanish minister of industry, trade and tourism, María Reyes Maroto Illera, to discuss ways of enhancing co-operation between the two countries in the tourism field.
Al-Khatib brought the Spanish minister up to date with the country’s new ambitions in the sector.
He explained tourism would be given priority under the new Vision 2030 guidelines, with hopes for a big impact on the gross domestic product of Saudi Arabia.
Authorities also see tremendous potential in the job opportunities provided by tourism for young Saudis.
During the meeting, Al-Khatib reviewed the main features of the tourism strategy that is being prepared and the partnerships that the kingdom seeks to build in this field with a number of countries.
He stressed historical, deep-rooted relations connect Saudi Arabia with Spain, noting that boosting co-operation between the two countries in the tourism field will work in parallel with existing connections.
At the same time, Al-Khatib has met with the secretary general of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation, Zurab Pololikashvili.
At the event, the pair discussed the existing relationship between the organisation and the Saudi Commission for Tourism & National Heritage.
Al-Khatib reiterated the kingdom’s interest in establishing a partnership with the UNWTO, focused on tourism training.
Tourism in Saudi Arabia
According to data from Colliers, international arrivals to Saudi Arabia are expected to increase 5.6 per cent per year from 17.7 million in 2018 to 23.3 million in 2023.
Religious tourism is expected to remain the bedrock of the sector over the next decade, with a goal of attracting 30 million pilgrims to the kingdom by 2030, an increase of 11 million from the 19 million Hajj and Umrah pilgrims that visited the country in 2017.
Vision 2030 has set aside $64 billion to invest in culture, leisure and entertainment projects over the next decade, which will significantly add to the attractiveness of the country as a touristic destination, according to a recent report from real estate firm Savills.
The first phase of the Red Sea project, which is estimated to grow the kingdom’s GDP by US$5.86 billion and will consist of an airport, marinas, up to 3,000 hotel rooms and various recreational activities, is expected to complete during 2022.
Additionally, last year Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund announced the development of Amaala, a new ultra-luxury tourism mega-project which is earmarked for completion in 2028.
The development will add 2,500 hotel rooms – further boosting the accommodation offering for both domestic and international visitors alike.
Ahmad bin Aqil Al-Khatib
Ahmad Al-Khatib has been a key player in Saudi politics for a number of years.
Before his appointment to the leadership Al-Khatib served as the chairman of the board of directors of the Saudi Arabian Military Industries, chairman of the board of directors of the General Entertainment Authority, as well as chairman of the board of directors of the Saudi Fund for Development.
He has over 25 years in the financial services and investment sectors, and has particular expertise in establishing, managing and restructuring government and corporate entities.
Al-Khatib is a former adviser to the royal court, was the minister of health between 2014 and 2016, and served as the chairman for the Saudi stock company established in 2006, Jadwa Investment.
He has 23 years of experience in banking.
In 1992, he joined Riyad Bank, working in various departments for 11 years and helping to establish the customer investment department.
In 2003, Al-Khateeb joined Saudi British Bank and participated in the establishment of Islamic Banking (Amanah).
Al-Khatib received his BA in business administration from King Saud University in Saudi Arabia, and subsequently a diploma in wealth management from Dalhousie University in Canada.
Ahmad bin Aqil Al-Khatib earlier this year led the Saudi Arabia delegation to Arabian Travel Market in Dubai.