RIYADH – Prince Sultan bin Salman, secretary-general of the General Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (GCTA), said yesterday that the commission aims to make Saudi Arabia one of the most-favored tourism destinations in the region.
Prince Sultan was speaking at a luncheon meeting organized to launch GCTA’s summer tourism program. The tourism plan, Prince Sultan said, has details of the events, fun and frolics, traditional arts, folklore skits and sporting events that will be organized by local companies and tourism organizations in cooperation with the GCTA in different parts of the Kingdom this year.
“Our aim is to ensure sustainable growth of tourism sector and to offer the best tourism products and services with an aim to promote domestic tourism,” Prince Sultan said. “We are striving hard to make this country one of the three most favored tourism destinations of this region,” said the GCTA chief while giving an overview of the GCTA’s operations.
“There is a lot for tourists to do in Saudi Arabia and we have a lot to offer,” Prince Sultan said.
The summer events will be organized in staggered schedules across the Kingdom until the end of August. The details of the events can be seen on GCTA website event.sct.gov.sa/View.html.
A series of folklore events, sporting activities, shopping events with raffle draws and stunt shows have been lined up for this summer, he noted.
A tourist, either a citizen or a foreign tourist, will have the chance to discover the hidden treasures of Saudi Arabia, such as the remains of the Hijaz Railway, which was built in early 20th century for the use of pilgrims traveling to the holy cities of Makkah and Madinah from other parts of the world. Mountains abundant with vegetation and wildlife offer a verdant contrast to sprawling desert expanses. Scuba diving in the Red Sea is another attraction for visitors.
Prince Sultan said that the commission is working to model itself on the best world tourism bodies.
“In order to ensure this, we recently sent a number of mayors, municipality chairmen and university professors to different foreign countries to preview the urban heritage sites and to interact with tourism officials of those countries,” said the prince, while referring to the familiarization trips made by municipal and academic officials to Italy, France and Spain.
Prince Sultan said the program seeks to coordinate and unify the efforts of officials, investors, local communities, provincial authorities and municipalities. The program also seeks to support efforts of the private sector in planning, developing and operating tourism projects in the most efficient way. “This program with all our partners is yielding positive results,” said the tourism chief.
All government agencies are exerting efforts to help the tourism sector to grow, he said.
The Council of Ministers recently approved a strategic plan to boost Saudi Arabia’s growing tourism sector by making use of its Red Sea coast.
According to a report, the plan aims to tackle the problems that obstruct optimum and sustained use of the Red Sea’s tourism potentials, especially in economic, environmental and heritage areas.
According to the report, plans have been made to establish a large number of tourism projects along the Red Sea at a cost of nearly SR150 billion. The new resorts will be established in Arrayes in Yanbu, Ras Muhaisen in Makkah region, Haridha in Asir region, Fursan in Jizan, and Ras Humaid, Sharma, Qayyal and Dhaffat Al-Wajh in the Tabuk region. The plan is in line with the government strategy to increase tourism industry’s share in the country’s gross domestic product from six to 16 per cent by 2020. The tourism sector, including Haj and Umrah, currently contributes six per cent to the Kingdom’s GDP or SR55 billion.