Saudi tourism commission estimates 140 million visitors by 2020
Muslim pilgrims gather to perform noon and afternoon prayers at Namira Mosque in Mount Arafat, southeast of the Saudi holy city of Mecca. (AFP Photo/Mohammed Al-Shaikh)
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Saudi Arabia’s Commission for Tourism and National Heritage has reportedly called for more than 48,000 new hotels rooms to accommodate growing foreign and domestic visitor numbers.
The SCTH said tourist numbers are estimated to reach 140 million by 2020, offering a “golden opportunity for the private sector to invest in the kingdom’s profitable hospitality industry” according to an unnamed official quoted by Saudi Gazette.
“The commission expects 128 million domestic tourists and 13.1 million foreign tourists, mainly from the neighboring Gulf and Arab countries, by 2020,” the official said.
Domestic tourist spending in the country is expected to rise from SAR 50bn ($13.3bn) to SAR 78bn ($20.7bn) to 2020, while foreign tourist spending is expected to increase from SAR 12bn ($3.1bn) to SAR 23bn ($6.1bn).
This will see total revenue increase from SAR 63bn ($16.7bn) to SAR 101bn ($26.9bn) with tourists spending 807 million hotel nights in the country by 2020.
The kingdom’s Vision 2030 reform plan has listed the developed of 1,300 islands – 1,150 in the Red Sea and 150 in the Arabian Gulf – as a development goal for the tourism sector.
“These islands have fantastic tourism potential,” the official told Saudi Gazette. “They are rich with coral reefs, sandy beaches, mountainous terrain and greenery. Tourists can engage in trekking, fishing, diving, boating and bathing on these islands in all seasons of the year.”
The commission has identified 75 islands for tourism investment with Jabal Al-Laith island near Al-Laith principality in particular identified as a potential location to attract large numbers of Haj and Umrah pilgrims once developed.
“Jabal Al-Laith is the main island in the area and there are 12 small islands and all of them are located about 11.5 nautical miles from Al-Laith city,” the official said.
The four square kilometre island is known for its clean water, various types of rare fish and coral reef, according to the publication.
The Presidency of Meteorology and Environment, General Intelligence, Saudi Wildlife Authority and Saudi Geological Survey are among those helping the development of the island.
Under the Vision 2030 plan, the kingdom plans to Saudise a significant percentage of the 600,000 jobs currently available in the sector, from 10 to 15 per cent today.
The plan aims to create 1.5 million direct and indirect jobs in the sector by 2020.
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