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Saudi Arabia set to embrace tourism

Tourism officials from the Kingdom unveil a 5-year plan to attract more visitors.

On the first day of the Arabian Travel Market held in Dubai May 06, Saudi Arabia’s Supreme Commission for Tourism announced that it is set to launch a comprehensive tourism plan to be completed by 2008.

Under the latest initiative, the tourism authorities will initially target Saudis, who traditionally spend their summers abroad, followed by the Arab and Muslim sectors, while also gradually developing niche tourism such as trekking and scuba diving for non-Muslim visitors.

“The SCT will work with government departments in various districts and the private sector to set up tourism organisations to develop a fully-fledged tourism industry,” said HRH Prince Sultan bin Salman Abdulaziz Al Saud, secretary general of the SCT.

Prince Sultan added that to succeed in this new venture, the Kingdom would need to select the best projects, carry out environmental and economic studies and improving its promotional and marketing activities.

According to Prince Sultan, the Kingdom currently has in excess of 30 million tourists a year, who stay for one night or more. However, he cautioned that although Saudi Arabia did possess an expatriate community of around 6 million, the country had to remain conservative in its approach to tourism due to its role as the cradle of Islam.

The latest venture is expected to create between 1.7-2.3 million jobs in the Kingdom over the next 20 years, many of which could be filled by Saudi nationals.

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