Tourism in Saudi Arabia has a bright future, despite the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, delegates at the new Future Hospitality Summit have been told.
Saudi minister of tourism, Ahmed Al Khateeb, opened the digital conference this morning on an upbeat note.
He told delegates: “We are seeing a clear picture emerge of how the next few months, even years, will look in the tourism sector.
“The agenda will be set by events such as this.”
Tourism authorities in Saudi Arabia hope to move up the global visitor list in the coming years, taking a place in the top five by 2030.
The sector has traditionally been driven by religious tourism, particularly the Hajj to Mecca, but there are now hopes a leisure sector can be added to drive numbers upward.
As part of the new focus, Saudi Arabia has issued more than half a million tourism visas since the launch of a new scheme in 2019 – though numbers will have slowed with borders closed during the Covid-19 pandemic.
“When we opened our borders last year, people were exiting to discover and explore our heritage, the treasures we have in Saudi Arabia,” added Al Khateeb.
“We are also developing the Red Sea coastline to share it with travellers from around the world - wonderful beaches and reefs.
“There are also more than 10,000 historical sites in Saudi Arabia, including five recognised by UNESCO, taking us back thousands of years.
“These are there for people to come visit, to learn from.”
Future Hospitality Summit is a hybrid virtual conference developed to explore big ideas and tackle the challenges facing the hospitality industry, and will take place in Riyadh over the next two days.
The event, which promises to be one of the most impactful gatherings of the hospitality community, will be delivered on a cutting-edge event platform from Bench Digital.
It will provide an immersive live experience, including a virtual exhibition, one-to-one video networking and integrated chat features to all participants.
United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) secretary general, Zurab Pololikashvili, joined the event to reiterate plans to open its first ever regional office in Riyadh.
Al Khateeb added: “We are honoured that Saudi Arabia has been approved as the location for the first ever UNWTO regional office.
“This collaborative approach will help drive growth and build resilience across the tourism sector at national and regional levels.”
The regional office for the Middle East will opened between this and next year.
Future Hospitality Summit is organised by ministry of tourism Saudi Arabia and G20 Saudi Secretariat as part of the International Conferences Program, honouring the G20 Saudi presidency 2020.
Find out more on the official website.