Saudis spend $20B on foreign tourism but things are about to change

Published April 11th, 2017 - 08:11 GMT
Saudis spend, on average, more than $20 billion annually on foreign tourism, but things are about to change with the kingdom's new entertainment city project. (AFP/Stan Honda)
Saudis spend, on average, more than $20 billion annually on foreign tourism, but things are about to change with the kingdom's new entertainment city project. (AFP/Stan Honda)

Political and economic experts view the Al Qidiya project to build the largest recreational city in Saudi Arabia as a qualitative leap in the policy of building civilizations that are based on culture, sports, entertainment, arts, and economy.

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The project that will be constructed in Riyadh and will cover an area of 334 kilometers is seen by the experts as an attempt to transform the capital into several smaller cities in one large one and possibly a main recreational and tourist destination in the world.

Experts predict that the project will become a tourist attraction to the Saudis themselves whereby the tens of billions of dollars that they spend on foreign travel annually will be shifted towards Al Qidiya. It will also attract hard currencies through tourists visiting Saudi Arabia from across the world and will fill the future generations’ needs for world-class amusement and tourism attractions.

Dr. Khalil Al Khalil, a political analyst, told Asharq Al-Awsat that the various mega projects in Saudi Arabia confirm the Kingdom’s effort to reinvent itself and build a future that meets its expectations, cultures and needs. Al Qidiya mega project is only one of many that target the current and coming generations.

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Al Khalil said that such mega projects are being adopted and built under the political and economic sponsorship of the Saudi government and its generous funding. The project will be based on sports, culture, arts and economy to transform Riyadh into several smaller cities to resemble destinations, such as Disneyland, Hollywood, Dubai, and Hong Kong, but all in one mega city.

He said Al Qidiya mega project represents a cultural, economic and social leap not only in the history of the kingdom, but in the region and the world, due to its massive size and diverse fields. Its most important element is that it will transform Riyadh into a global sports, cultural, arts and creative hub alongside its historic and political role.

Dr. Nasser al-Tayyar, a Saudi investor in the aviation and tourism sector, told Asharq Al-Awsat that the project launched by Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman will bolster the plan of economic stability and reduce the money wasted by foreign travel, especially since around seven million Saudis travel abroad annually where they spend billions of dollars.

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According to the World Bank, Saudis spend, on average, more than $20 billion annually on foreign tourism. Saudi Arabia ranked 14th worldwide in expenditure on foreign tourism, which reached $25 billion in 2014, before the drop of oil prices.

Al-Tayyar added that Al Qidiya project “is one of many that we have been waiting for for a long time. It has social and economic aspects, especially due to its proximity to Riyadh that lies in the heart of Saudi Arabia and therefore makes it easily accessible to visitors from all over the Kingdom” and the Arab and Muslim world.

He also suggested that such projects will help in maintaining larger amounts of hard currencies that will be used in local tourism and recreational services and will open the door for foreign investors and visitors.

The Saudi investor said the world is going through an economic crisis and Saudis must employ the money they usually spend on foreign tourism on their own country instead if the recreational and tourism factors are made available to them locally.

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Tayyar continued by saying that King Abdulaziz Camel Festival adopted by the Saudi Vision in Riyadh usually witnesses a perfect turnout, great activity and provides many job opportunities for Saudi youths from both genders. Al Qidiya city will be another attractive project that will create local industries, he added.

Majid A Al-Hokair, chairman of the Committee for Tourism and Entertainment Riyadh Chamber, told Asharq Al-Awsat that the Al Qidiya project is a first-class national project, saying it has political, economic, social, and cultural dimensions based on a long-term vision.

He expected this project to create many job opportunities for the Saudi youths from both genders, and to pave the road for the foundation of related industries. He added that this project will meet the amusement needs of visitors, residents and citizens.

Hokair concluded by saying that Riyadh will become the primary hub for expertise in the entertainment industry for the private and public sectors, both internally and externally. It will offer great opportunities for foreign investment, especially for major global companies working in this field, such as “Six Flags”, which operates one of the largest amusement parks in the world.

By Fatah Al-Rahman Youssef

 


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