spent SR54 billion ($14.4 billion) on foreign travel last year,
according to Prince Sultan ibn Salman, secretary-general of the
Supreme Commission for Tourism. During the same year, the Kingdom made
revenues worth SR6.75 billion ($1.8 billion) from tourism, the prince
said, quoting a report of the World Council for Travel and Tourism.
revealed these significant data while presenting a paper at a seminar
on the “Economic Impact of Tourism in Saudi Arabia” held in the
southern tourist resort of Abha recently.
indicate that Saudi tourists spent over 100 million nights abroad in
4.4 million trips during the year 2000. On an average, each night cost
them $135, bringing the total spending to about $14.4 billion,” he
He said the number
of tourists coming to the Kingdom soared remarkably in the last
decade. It jumped from 2.582 million in 1992 to 4.8 million in 1999,
registering an annual growth of between four and 23.3 percent. The
Kingdom’s revenues from tourism increased from SR3.8 billion in 1992
to SR6.1 billion in 1999 and SR6.75 billion last year.
Saudi Arabia has
taken effective steps to boost domestic tourism and reduce the deficit
in the tourism balance of payment which is now estimated at SR47.25
billion ($12.6 billion).
In addition to the
establishment of an independent body to encourage domestic tourism,
the government has started issuing tourist visas allowing foreigners
to visit historical places, museums and antiquities in Saudi Arabia.
Prince Sultan said
the commission is preparing a comprehensive tourism plan to ensure
continuous development of the industry without reneging on the
country’s culture, traditions and environment.
The tourism sector
will be developed by providing conducive investment opportunities to
the private sector, revising regulations, training Saudis to take up
related jobs and making use of the media to encourage domestic travel.
The new plan,
Prince Sultan said, aims at diversifying the country’s revenue
sources, increasing the gross domestic product and creating job
opportunities for burgeoning population.
small-scale and alternative ventures and development of heritage and
traditional industries are among other goals of the plan.
underscored the government’s plan to make Saudi Arabia a leader in
global tourism. This involves many incumbent tasks such as the
assessment of the country’s tourism resources as well as the local
market requirements, enforcement of new laws to ensure quality,
training Saudi manpower and enacting new regulations to facilitate
Prince Sultan said
the private sector could play an important role in promoting tourism
in the country in the light of its strong capabilities, vast
experience and large-scale potentials.
The private capital
in the Kingdom increased from 53.9 percent of the total investment in
the country in 1989 to 64 percent in 1999.
The private sector
can provide state-of-the-art tourist infrastructure facilities such as
hotels, restaurants, shopping malls and recreation centers.
commission expects that the Kingdom will be able to reduce Saudi
spending on tourism abroad by a minimum of 10 percent and a maximum of
25 percent in the initial stage of the plan’s execution.
The commission also
estimates that the tourism industry’s contribution to the GDP will
reach 7.3 percent and will account for 6.5 percent of the total
employment opportunities in the country.
At present, a
little over 12,500 people are employed in the hotel industry, and only
7 percent of them are Saudis. Prince Sultan expects that new
investment in the sector will create at least 164,000 jobs for Saudis.
will also generate business for hotels and furnished villas, and will
consequently attract more capital into the real estate projects.
Influx of foreign tourists may also lead to creation of private
aviation companies and construction of new rail networks to ease
movement within the Kingdom.
tourism traffic will raise the income of the communications sector by
20 percent, housing sector by 25 percent, trade 12 percent and
restaurants 15 percent,” Prince Sultan said in his paper.
statistics show that tourism contributes about 10 percent of the gross
domestic product globally.
“Tourism is the
largest contributor to the non-oil GDP in many countries,” Prince
Sultan said. It also helps many governments to maintain their balance
of payment position. International turnover from tourism was estimated
at $476 billion last year.
Tourism is a major
source of employment worldwide. Statistics show that the tourist
sector accommodates more than 192 million people, of whom 73 million
are directly involved in the industry. Statistics also indicate that
employment opportunities in the sector are growing, compared with
other sectors where opportunities are receding.
Prince Sultan said
tourism plays an important role in boosting progress of a country and
welfare of its people indirectly as it encourages investment in
infrastructure projects such as airports, seaports, roads, and sewage
and water distribution systems.
It also contributes
to the development of rural areas. Tourism offers an important source
of income for the government, in terms of taxes and entrance fees to
museums and public gardens.