‘Incredible’ destination Saudi Arabia must develop tourism infrastructure, global travel expert says

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Landscapoe shot is between Wadi Al Dawasir and Haradh in Saudi Arabia. (AFP/File photo)
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Nigel David said there needs to be a follow up to the campaign that was launched last year under the slogan  “Where In The World”. (AN photo)
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Updated 17 February 2020

‘Incredible’ destination Saudi Arabia must develop tourism infrastructure, global travel expert says

  • Saudi Arabia shall overcome perception that "it is just a destination for religious tourism," expert says

LONDON: Saudi Arabia must develop its infrastructure for tourists and offer a variety of activities for them to undertake as the Kingdom seeks to become a leading global travel destination, a travel and tourism expert said Wednesday.

The Kingdom has made huge strides in diversifying its economy by launching tourist visas that allow residents of 49 countries to obtain visas online or on arrival, the regional director for the Middle East at the World Travel and Tourism Council Nigel David said. This is the first step towards the Kingdom’s target of growing tourism from around 3 percent to 10 percent of Saudi Arabia’s gross domestic product by 2030, he added.

Speaking to Arab News at a travel and tourism event at the Arab-British Chamber of Commerce (ABCC) in London, David said there needs to be a follow up to the campaign that was launched last year under the slogan  “Where In The World” and featured several shots of Saudi landmarks and natural wonders, prompting viewers to guess where they might be.

“There is a certain perception which the Kingdom needs to overcome; that it is just a destination for religious tourism and that it’s not a safe place to go. It is the opposite of all those things. 

The “Where in the World” campaign started that process but there now needs to be a follow up campaign about how easy it is to get a visa and more specifically around the opportunities for tourists when they’re there and what they can do. That’s very important and that’s where the biggest challenges lie,” David said at the “Travel and Tourism 2020: A strategy for development?” event.

Although there are challenges to achieving Vision 2030’s aim of being a top five country in terms of international arrivals with 75 million international visitors and employing a million people directly in the tourism industry, there is a “willingness and desire” in the Kingdom to develop.

Speaking about Vision 2030, Saudi Arabia’s sweeping program of economic and cultural reforms, David said it is ambitious and it is “very significant that Saudi Arabia has a leadership that recognizes the role that travel tourism can play… It is an ambitious strategy, it’s incredible. Just the scale of what they’re trying to do with the giga projects, whether that’s NEOM or the Red Sea project, the clarity of the vision and the ambition is absolutely incredible.”

He added that there was a high awareness of the vision in Saudi Arabia and that “it’s not just the top, it is going right down to the grassroots, and the local population is excited and up for this and they are looking forward to it.”

Locations such as AlUla, NEOM, and the Red Sea are all being touted as potential tourist destinations, with many other areas of the country preparing to receive visitors as well. 

The Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage is putting on 11 different tourist seasons around the year across the Kingdom. They include the Riyadh Season, AlUla season - which features the Winter at Tantora Festival - and Ad Diriyah Season.

“Saudi Arabia has this incredible culture and heritage and it’s a beautiful country. The people are amazing and it’s the perfect timing now to open their doors and hearts to the world to invite it in. My experience is that they are doing that and they are doing it very well,” David said.


Saudi minister: OPEC+ will take responsible approach to virus

Updated 26 February 2020

Saudi minister: OPEC+ will take responsible approach to virus

  • Saudi Arabia supports the further oil production cut, but Russia is yet to announce its final position on the matter

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s energy minister said on Tuesday he was confident that OPEC and its partner oil-producing nations, the so-called OPEC+ group, would respond responsibly to the spread of the coronavirus.

He also said Saudi Arabia and Russia would continue to engage regarding oil policy.

“Everything serious requires being attended to,” the minister, Prince Abdul Aziz bin Salman, told reporters at an industry conference in Riyadh.

An OPEC+ committee this month recommended the group deepen its output cuts by an additional 600,000 barrels per day.

Saudi Arabia supports the further oil production cut, but Russia is yet to announce its final position on the matter.

The minister said he was still talking with Moscow and that he was confident of Riyadh’s partnership with the rest of the OPEC+ group.

“We did not run out of ideas, we have not closed our phones. There is always a good way of communicating through conference calls,” he said.

Regarding the coronavirus, which has impacted OPEC member Iran, he said OPEC+ members should not be complacent about the virus but added he was confident every OPEC+ member was a responsible and responsive producer.

The flu-like SARS-CoV-2 virus, which first broke out in China, has now spread to more than 20 countries.

“Of course there is an impact and we are assessing, but we’ll do whatever we can in our next meeting and we’ll address that issue,” UAE Energy Minister Suhail Al-Mazrouei said at the same industry conference.

Saudi Aramco CEO Amin Nasser on Monday said he expected a short-lived impact on oil demand.

“We think this is short term and I am confident that in the second half of the year there is going to be an improvement on the demand side, especially from China,” he said.

Oil climbed on Tuesday as investors sought bargains after crude benchmarks slumped almost 4 percent in the previous session, although concerns about the global spread of the virus capped gains.