Leaders from the Saudi Arabia hospitality market have told delegates at AHIC on the Road that the country remains open to private investors seeking opportunities.
Hammad Al Balawi, general manager of tourism investment, Saudi Arabia ministry of tourism, explained: “Saudi Arabia is new to the tourism sector globally, though we do trace a history of 1,400 years and play host to the two holy sites of Islam – Mecca and Medina – so we are no strangers to hospitality.
“As part of Vision 2030, we have started to explore other areas of tourism, be that sports, entertainment or culture.
“We have set out key goals to diversify our economy, and create a melting pot of cultures.
“Since the beginning of last year, we have been working on a national tourism strategy, offering a balance of the giga projects and smaller scale development across the country.
“We have assessed over 10,000 sites across the country, evaluating where might be suitable for development as part of our long-term vision.”
He added: “Some 80 per cent of guests from around the world can now get a visa within five minutes, with many able to get a visa on arrival.
“This is part of a wider strategy to increase tourism, welcoming over 100 million visits annually by 2030, and seeing the sector increase from three to ten per cent of GDP.
“We would like to see 1.6 million jobs in the tourism sector at the end of the decade, up from 600,000 today.”
Saudi Arabia now for the first time has a department of tourism, which sets the agenda for the long-term growth, while there is also a tourism board, which is mandated to advertise the destination to the world.
The tourism market will be developed by the private sector, with 75 per cent of rooms keys entering the market before 2023 in private hands.
Majed Al Ghanim, managing director, tourism and quality of life sector, Saudi Arabia ministry of investment, added: “Tourism will be vital to driving the GDP of Saudi Arabia forward and can offer employment to hundreds of thousands of people.
“Partnerships between local private sector, international private sector and the government will be vital to this.
“It is an exciting time for young Saudis, they all want to be part of this.
“We are here to support the private sector, to provide data, present opportunities and to initiate studies in order to facilitate investments.”