RIYADH: Saudi Arabia's tourism sector has received a SR300 million ($80 million) boost through a new government programme aimed at supporting small and medium-sized businesses.
The initiative — a joint-financing program by the state-owned tourism fund and Arab National Bank — will provide up to SR3 million to individual SMEs, with the aim of encouraging private sectors to explore the opportunities available in the hospitality industry.
The move is part of a drive by the Saudi government to make the Kingdom one of the top five tourist destinations globally by 2030.
Ahmed Al-Khateeb, Saudi Arabian minister for tourism, said: “We congratulate the Tourism Development Fund and the Arab National Bank for launching the Tourism Finance Program to empower micro and small tourism enterprises, which constitute more than 90 percent of the establishments in the tourism sector. This initiative will help achieve their ambitions in line with the objectives of Vision 2030.”
Under the new funding program, SMEs will get the initial approval for financing within 48 hours after sending the application. Once the loan is approved, SME entrepreneurs will get a repayment period of up to five years.
The agreement was signed by Qusai Al-Fakhri, CEO of Tourism Development Fund and Obaid Abdullah Al-Rasheed, CEO and managing director of Arab National Bank.
Al-Fakhri said that the new fund will help entrepreneurs in the SME sector to achieve their ambitions and enhance the returns of their projects in the tourism sector.
Al-Rasheed noted that this joint financing is in line with the vision of the Arab National Bank to meet the various financing needs of customers by providing them with products and loans that would help them grow and prosper in the tourism industry.
The launch of this new fund is one among those several measures taken by the Saudi Arabian government to promote the tourism sector.
During the recent 116th Executive Council of the United Nations World Tourism Organization, Al-Khateeb announced that the Kingdom will spend $100 million to provide training for 100,000 people to work in the tourism and sustainability sector.
The tourism minister also added that Saudi Arabia has allocated a sum of $800 billion to be spent on the tourism sector up to 2030.
Al-Khateeb recently said that the Kingdom is aiming to attract 12 million foreign visitors in 2022.
In an exclusive interview with Arab News, Mahmoud Abdulhadi, the Kingdom’s deputy minister for investment attraction, noted that SMEs have a crucial role to play as the country advances in the tourism sector.
“We are keen on large private sector investment to come in. But we’re also cognizant that the whole sector is built on small and medium-sized enterprises,” said Abdulhadi.