By a Staff Writer
Saturday 14 July 2001
Last Update 14 July 2001 2:43 am
RIYADH, 14 July — Saudi Arabia plans to form a share-holding company to build and operate infrastructure facilities in popular tourist spots across the country, a tourism promotion official said yesterday.<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />
The proposed company will facilitate investment opportunities to local and foreign investors in the tourism sector, Mushabbab Al-Qahtani, head of the tourism committee at the Council of Saudi Chambers of Commerce and Industry, told the Kuwait News Agency.
Formation of the new company comes within efforts to boost tourism in the country and widen the economic base of the state, which depends mainly on oil revenues. Oil accounts for up to 70 percent of the national income.
Opening the 14th tourism festival in Taif on Wednesday, Makkah Governor Prince Abdul Majeed said the tourism industry was as vital for the national economy as the oil sector. He put the total spending on tourism projects in Taif during the past five years at SR1 billion and expected more to be appropriated by the government as well as the private sector.
A study presented at a recent seminar in Abha said the tourism industry was expected to generate SR40 billion in revenues within the next two years and create 65,000 jobs for Saudi nationals.
New tourism projects in various tourism centers across the country are expected to attract this year about 50 percent of Saudi vacationers who normally spend their holidays abroad, Al-Qahtani said.
The Kingdom has embarked on an aggressive policy to promote tourism in the country. Recent decisions allowing Umrah pilgrims longer periods of stay and greater freedom of movement within the Kingdom and issuance of Umrah visas round the year as well as scrapping of the travel permit requirement for foreign residents to move around are expected to go a long way in boosting the tourism industry.
There already are a few tourism-oriented companies in Taif, Baha and Abha involved in building hotels, resort facilities and entertainment projects.