At least 4.5 million Saudi tourists spend over SR80 billion ($20 billion) every year when they go abroad and six times as much as their Western counterparts, making them the highest spenders worldwide, Al-Sharq reported.
The secretary general of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities’ media center and expert in tourism affairs Khalid Al-Dughaim said international tourism has become very popular and the domestic tourism industry is competing to attract tourists.
He said: “The tourism industry is looking at tackling the obstacles it has in order to enhance its services.
“The travel agencies, tourism agencies and the activities we offer nationally must be reevaluated.
“Development of the tourism industry will enrich regional income and enhance the attraction of the country’s landmarks and history.
“It will also create job opportunities for many job-seekers.”
He also said tourism in the Kingdom in relatively new compared to other Gulf and Arabian countries, which is why it is not receiving full financial and media support.
It is not considered an industry yet, but more of a field of service offered to consumers, he claimed.
He said: “If you read about the Kingdom’s history you will find that the agriculture industry, for example, and the manufacturing industry were supported by the government since the 1970s.
“That was due to the economic boom the Kingdom had then.
“Free land was distributed and the Kingdom was known for its agricultural trade and manufactured materials.”
Al-Dughaim added the Kingdom is yet to realize the economic value of tourism.
In neighboring countries, tourism has proven to be a more stable and sustainable income than oil and it will not run out as long as human resources exist.
Recent studies revealed that the total funding for tourism industries all around the world has reached $3 trillion annually.
The studies also predict that in the near future tourism will surpass oil in terms of income.
This has encouraged many countries to encourage investors to invest in tourism by making the investment process easier and offer loans covering 90 percent of the investments’ expenses.
Al-Dughaim said: “Dubai is a perfect example of the importance of tourism.
“It has turned from a city with dilapidated lands into one full of skyscrapers and top hotels in the world.
“It has supported its culture by opening shopping centers in line with its local culture and language.
“It is expected that the tourism industry will advance on a gradual scale in line with the Kingdom’s economy.
“However, there are many cost-effective strategies that can be implemented to enhance tourism.
“Festivals are just one of the attractions that mobilize the tourism industry for starters.”
He added that Saudis have started studying tourism and are hoping to graduate and work in the field.
The country should focus on developing the human resources of the tourism industry and facilitate loans and financial support for investors, he said.
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