JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia will be one of the most attractive countries for tourism because of its location, its unique tourist and historic elements and its hospitable and welcoming people, said Prince Sultan bin Salman.
Prince Sultan, who is president of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage (SCTH), told the annual conference of the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) in the Argentine capital Buenos Aires that the efforts of the SCTH and its partners in localizing tourist jobs resulted in an increase in the number of direct jobs in the tourism sector from 936,000 in 2016 to 993,000 by the end of 2017. The number of job opportunities is expected to increase to 1.2 million by the year 2020.
He said the contributions of tourism to the national GDP amounted to 3.6 percent, up to 4.9 percent of the national non-oil output, and the revenues of the tourism sector reached SR97.5 billion ($26 billion). Direct jobs in the tourism sector exceeded 994,000, and the proportion of Saudi citizens currently employed in the sector is about 28 percent.
The Saudi government has allocated SR5 billion to the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques’ program, which takes care of the cultural heritage of the Kingdom.
The program includes the establishment of 18 museums in the Kingdom’s regions, the creation of 80 heritage sites and opening them to visitors throughout the Kingdom, the restoration and preparation of 18 villages and traditional towns to receive visitors, and hosting economic and local hospitality activities operated by local people, as well as opening 17 centers for artisans that serve as incubators for the development of their businesses, factories for their production, and outlets for sale.
Prince Sultan also noted that after the SCTH completed the registration of the first four sites on the World Heritage List (Madain Saleh, Al-Tarif district in Jeddah, historic Jeddah, rock inscriptions in Jubba and Shuweis in Hail), it has been working with its partners to complete the registration files of six additional sites. Also, 20 additional important Islamic sites are being rehabilitated and prepared in Makkah and Madinah.
The conference was attended by more than 1,200 prominent investors and key corporate officials in tourism.
The WTTC is the largest gathering of investors and private sector professionals working in tourism around the world.