Tourism has the potential to replace crude oil as the primary source of revenue for Saudi Arabia, according to tourism industry experts.
Speaking during a panel discussion on the rapid growth of domestic tourism and its future, experts maintained that tourism and national heritage are the most qualified sectors to create a sea change in the national economy and "is characterized by the ability to create added value and a wider area for domestic investments.”
The discussion was organized by the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage (SCTNH).
The Kingdom’s non-oil sector is forecast to maintain a robust growth with tourism expected to contribute as high as 5.4 percent to the non-oil GDP in 2015 and potentially reaching a strategic level of 5.7 percent by 2020 as the sector benefits from government spending, corporate lending and solid domestic demand with the hospitality sector being the key contributor.
Academic Salah Al-Shalhoob said: “The Kingdom is diversifying its economy with Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman leading important economic transformation supporting key sectors capable of creating added value as an economic tributary, and there is no doubt that tourism is one of the most important economic tributaries.”
Economic analyst Fadl Saad Al-Bu Ainaian iterated: “Tourism represents the second most important economic sector in the Kingdom and development plans in tourism show its ability to raise its contribution to further higher levels for comprehensive economic development to create more jobs and investment opportunities.”
The Human Resources Development Fund (HRDF) recently said that tourism is expected to create more than 400,000 jobs in the next five years.
Nasir bin Ogail Al-Tayyar said the volume of the tourism market in the Kingdom is estimated at about SR80 billion, without Haj and Umrah income, and said that the travel and tourism industry is a large and influential industry in the national economy and has a promising future.
Commenting on religious tourism in the Kingdom, Anees Ahmed Moumina, CEO of the Saudi Economic and Development Company (SEDCO) Holding Group, a leading Shariah-compliant private wealth management organization, said: “In its continuous surge, religious tourism stands as a haven for investors and a world of opportunities to young Saudis.”
Meanwhile, SCTNH President Prince Sultan bin Salman attended the Group of Twenty (G-20) tourism minister’s meeting in the Turkish city of Antalya on Wednesday.
The agenda for the meeting included issues like small and medium enterprises in tourism, employment, policies that stimulate job creation and sustainable development opportunities and the Kingdom’s most prominent achievements in tourism and national heritage sector.
By Rashid Hassan
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