Big projects need to open doors for SMEs to drive tourism, says official

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Updated 05 June 2022

Big projects need to open doors for SMEs to drive tourism, says official

Big projects need to open doors for SMEs to drive tourism, says official
  • Saudi Arabia’s Tourism Development Fund offers ‘financial and non-financial support to startups’

RIYADH: Prominent Saudi projects aimed at elevating tourism in the country will need to integrate with small and medium enterprises, said a senior official of Saudi Arabia’s Tourism Development Fund.

“We believe that even our big projects will need a lot of integration with SMEs to activate the entertainment, food and beverages sector,” Wahdan Al-Kadi, the chief business officer at TDF, told Arab News on the sidelines of the Future Hospitality Summit in Riyadh.

The two-day event held under the theme “Reimagined Horizons” discussed the future of hotel development, destination impact, aviation, sustainability, restaurant investment and human capital.

It featured a series of sessions covering topics such as the future of hotel asset management, the future of loyalty schemes, transparency and brand loyalty.

Encouraging SMEs

During the interview, Al-Kadi said that the TDF provides financial and non-financial support to startups and SMEs in the nation.

“We have financial support and non-financial support. We have a business app that offers to coach SMEs to run their businesses,” said Al-Kadi. 

Wahdan Al-Kadi

He further added: “There is financial support as well. We have 10 different products for SMEs that offer startup loans, working capital, asset financing, and many other products to support them.”

Tourism’s impact on GDP

Al-Kadi noted that the revenue from non-oil sectors is crucial for Saudi Arabia’s economy.

“There is a lot of focus on diversifying the economy through industries such as tourism, which can contribute to the gross domestic product and generate jobs. The idea is to raise the contribution of tourism to GDP from 3 percent to 10 percent and add another 1 million jobs directly and indirectly to the industry by 2030,” he added.

Al-Kadi added that the TDF is also doing its part to attract investors to the country.

“We have a one-stop-shop that helps local and international investors get the right data on the destinations we are promoting, besides supporting them with project-related licenses and permits and assisting them in getting lands.

We also do review feasibility studies,” he said.

Saudi Arabia has become a tourist destination for regional and international visitors and the Kingdom’s tourism sector is accelerating the pace for the future by announcing several programs and initiatives.

Saudi tourism offers geographical and historical diversity, highlighting natural resources, archaeological treasures and historical places that meet the aspirations of tourists.

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, 450,000 tourist visas were issued, since the Kingdom’s Tourism Authority launched the tourist visa program in 2019, by targeting 49 countries in the initial stage, and facilitated access to tourist visas electronically or through entry points to the Kingdom within specific regulatory controls.

The authority has prepared programs to attract tourism, and has been activating tourism investment and the role of the private sector. The authority has also participated in local and international tourism exhibitions and has managed marketing destinations, sites, itineraries, products and tourist packages internally and externally.