Saudi Arabia unveils $22 billion plan to boost tourism levels
Saudi Arabia has joined the Gulf's burgeoning tourism industry with the pledge that while "tourism is a new word in the Kingdom, it is alive and well as a young industry that could be worth an estimated $22 billion per annum in 15 years time."This was spelled out to the Arabian Travel Market (ATM) by HRH Prince Sultan bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud who said that the Kingdom's tourism plan will see a non-centralised approach evolve with a reduced government role after five years "from partner to support partner". "Solid partnerships will be the engine of growth," stressed Prince Sultan, chairman of the Supreme Commission for Tourism for the Kingdom (SCT) of Saudi Arabia. Outlining the futuristic plan to bring the Kingdom into the 21st century as a country anxious to cater for its own brand of tourists Prince Sultan, the first Arab to travel in space as part of the 1985 American Discovery shuttle crew said: "This is not a government industry, but one for everyone." He estimated the young national population will benefit by the creation of between 1.6 million to 2.3 million jobs through an increase in the number of inbound and outbound visitors from 20.8 million (2001 figure) to 44 million in the next two decades. Under the plan 13 tourist boards will be set up throughout the Kingdom and there are plans to provide an extra 50,000 hotel rooms over the next decade to add to the present 95,000. Also over the next decade tourism will require 74,000 more apartments. The Kingdom Council for Public Investment will work with the SCT to generate funds for investment in tourism. The Kingdom will initially be targeting local Saudi tourists, Umrah and Haj pilgrims, GCC and Arab nationals and international visitors. Fifty tourism development authorities will be established within 20 years with the government playing the role of regulator and facilitator rather than owner and investor, Prince Sultan explained.