Saudi unveils plans to welcome tourists

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Saudi unveils plans to welcome tourists
Prince Sultan Bin Salman

Dubai - Prince Sultan said tourism is one of the most promising industries for "creating real, meaningful, long-lasting jobs that Saudis like to do."

By AP

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Published: Thu 28 Apr 2016, 6:57 AM

Last updated: Thu 28 Apr 2016, 8:56 AM

Saudi Arabia has plans to issue select visas to welcome tens of thousands of tourists a year as part of a plan aimed at showcasing the country's rich heritage.
A day after Saudi Arabia outlined its Vision 2030 plan, Prince Sultan Bin Salman, President of Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage (SCTH),told The Associated Press how the country plans to develop its tourism industry over the coming years.
Prince Sultan said, "It is open for people that are doing business, for people working in Saudi Arabia, investing in Saudi Arabia, and people who are visiting for special purposes. And now it will be open for tourism again on a selected basis".
The country ran a pilot program between 2006 and 2010 welcoming around 25,000 visitors annually to see Saudi Arabia's ancient archaeological sites and vast landscapes of mountains, coastline, valleys, volcanoes and deserts.
No date has been set for when tourist visas will be issued again.
Travellers from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Oman are expected to spend $216 billion on world travel by 2030, according to a 2014 study for the travel tech company Amadeus. The study found that, on average, a traveller from these countries spends around $9,900 per trip outside the Gulf.
"Smelling and hearing the sounds of their country and tasting this fantastic multicultural country is something that's important for any nation that wants to go to the future confidently," Prince Sultan said.
"So many people today may look at their country practically as an ATM machine, which is very, very, very sad," he said, particularly as the country faces domestic and regional challenges.
The Vision 2030 plan approved by the Saudi Cabinet on Monday is a national blueprint for preparing the country for an era of lower oil prices, which have eroded the state's ability to finance subsidies, wages and infrastructure projects.
Currently, 70 per cent of Saudis work for the government. More than half of Saudis are under the age of 25, and millions will soon be looking for work and affordable housing.
Prince Sultan said tourism is one of the most promising industries for "creating real, meaningful, long-lasting jobs that Saudis like to do."
The tourism commission's figures show that around 245,000 Saudis work in the tourism sector. The target is to boost that to 352,000 by 2020 and to see investment in tourism upped by $8 billion to reach nearly $46 billion.
Around 11 million Muslims from across the globe visit Saudi Arabia annually for pilgrimage.
He said allowing pilgrims to stay on as tourists and creating an industry to support that would show visitors that Saudi Arabia "is moving forward".
"The issue is very important to us, that people come and find a country that is stable, that is secure... to show off, if you like, our country," he said.


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