More tourists to drive Saudi tourism revenue up 4.8% in 2010
Saudi Arabia, the Arab world’s biggest economy, expects revenue from tourism to increase 4.8 percent in 2010 as the kingdom tries to attract more visitors and religious pilgrims, the official Saudi Press Agency said.
Tourism revenue will reach 66 billion riyals ($17.6 billion) and rise to 118 billion riyals in 2015, the Riyadh- based news service said, citing Saleh al-Bakhit, the deputy- chairman for investments at the Saudi Commission for Tourism & Antiquities.
Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of Islam and the world’s biggest oil exporter, wants to develop its tourism industry as it tries to diversify its economy away from oil and create employment for its youth. Saudi Arabia is building a $5.3 billion rail line that can transport 3 million people between Mecca and Medina and is expanding Jeddah international airport to handle 30 million passengers by 2012.
Saudi nationals represented 117,384 of the 457,658 people employed by the tourism industry at the end of 2009, the Saudi Press Agency said, citing al-Bakhit.
The Riyadh-based tourism commission wants to attract more investment and will start a development company to identify new opportunities in the kingdom, al-Bakhit said, according to the news service. The government will allow long-term land leases for tourism projects, he said.
Jabal Omar Development Co., a real-estate developer in Mecca, is building 27 hotels with a combined 15,000 rooms. The first will open in 2011. Kingdom Holding Co., the investment company controlled by billionaire Prince Alwaleed, plans to open a five-star hotel with 1,000 rooms, restaurants and retail space in Islam’s holiest city.
Saudi Arabia receives at least 2 million visitors a year from 160 countries for the annual pilgrimage, or hajj, to Mecca. The commission also wants to promote its Red Sea coastline and historical sites, including Madain Saleh and Souq Okaz, as tourist destinations, al-Bakhit said.