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Top Saudi Arabia Business NewsFrom the Local Press

      

Officials expect tourism revenue to double this year
Riyadh 19th May 2001

 Saudi authorities expect revenue from the tourism sector to double this year compared to previous years. Senior tourism officials interviewed by the Kuwaiti news agency KUNA said they expected millions of people from Arab and Muslim countries to visit Saudi Arabia after the introduction of the new Umrah system.

The new regulations allow travel agents to bring in visitors and pilgrims throughout the year unlike previous years when Umrah visas were issued during a specific period of the year. Under the new system, pilgrims can visit places of interest outside the two holy cites of Makkah and Madinah though under certain controls.

The officials said the new measures would help stimulate internal tourism as well as trade activities in all regions of the country.

The Kingdom expects internal tourism to generate around SR25 billion ($6.66 billion) annually in the coming years. It also hopes that the tourism sector will create thousands of jobs for Saudi youths. The unemployment rate in the country currently stands at 20 percent, according to the latest figures available.

A study by the United Nations and the World Bank showed that population growth in Saudi Arabia stands at four percent. The study expected the Saudi population to reach 30 million by the year 2010 and more than 47 million by 2020.

In April last year, Saudi Arabia set up a national agency to promote domestic tourism. Chaired by Prince Sultan, second deputy prime minister and minister of defense and aviation, the Higher Tourism Authority is entrusted with developing the tourism industry by implementing studies carried out by experts. The authority is also developing archaeological sites and monuments in the country and is organizing a number of seminars on tourism.

The Gulf Exhibition 2001, currently under way in Jeddah with the participation of 100 companies from 24 countries, comes as part of moves to encourage investment in the tourism sector.

Meanwhile, regional authorities in Jeddah, Taif, Asir, Baha and Dammam are making preparations to host tourism promotion programs for the summer. Last year, more than 700,000 tourists visited the southwestern Asir region and spent around SR2 billion.

According to a study released by the Council of Saudi Chambers of Commerce and Industry, 47 percent of Saudis spend their holidays in non-Arab countries, 29 percent in Arab countries and 24 percent inside the Kingdom. Visitors to Saudi Arabia, mostly pilgrims, spent SR5.3 billion last year.

Saudi Arabia already has a well-developed tourism infrastructure. The country has 7,068 tourist facilities including major hotels. It has built 3,354 public parks covering a total area of 44.6 million square meters. There are 22 regional and four international airports in the country. The road network stretches over 36,581 kilometers. Stiff competition from other tourist destinations in the region and problems in financing tourist projects are some of the major challenges facing the Saudi tourism sector.

Arab countries’ share of international tourism stands at two percent, against 70 percent for Europe, according to estimates published by the International Tourism Organization.


Source: Arab News©
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