RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s tourism sector is on course to contribute 10 percent of the Kingdom’s gross domestic product within a decade, according to Gloria Guevara, chief special advisor to the Minister of Tourism.
Speaking to Arab News on the sidelines of the Future Investment Initiative forum in Riyadh, Guevara said Saudi Arabia was making the most of its natural “assets”, such as the Red Sea, in a bid to boost the fledgling sector.
Guevara, who served as the Secretary of Tourism in Mexico from 2010 and 2012, said her home country took 40 years to develop its tourism industry — but Saudi Arabia can do it in a quarter of that time.
She said that more than 1 million jobs are going to be created in the sector by 2030, and added: “We are going to have 100 million visitors by then, and we're hoping to have 10 percent of the GDP, which is very important because one in $10 are going to be the contribution for travel and tourism.”
“Now the reality is, this country doesn't need tourism, because we have a lot of other resources, we have oil. But the fact that we are capitalizing on the assets that we have, as I said, the culture, the beautiful Red Sea, the mountains, the hospitality, I think that's also creating opportunities for the locals,” Guevara added.
After working in Mexico, Guevara was the CEO of the World Travel & Tourism Council — a body that represents more than 200 CEOs from around the world.
“When I was in WTTC, I had the chance to see the transformation. And what do I mean by that in 2020, Saudi was the chair of the G20, for instance, and for the first time ever, we were invited, the private sector was invited, to the table in the ministerial tourism meetings,” she said.
“So the Minister Ahmed Al-Khateeb was able to create that partnership with the private sector. So for us, that was crucial, and for me, is very important for a country to have the vision, the leadership and the resources in order to be successful,” she added.
Pointing to the Kingdom’s multiple Giga projects, she highlighted that the leadership of Saudi Arabia are not only helping the country, but helping other countries as well, most notably in sustainability.
“What is happening here is helping the entire sector, and that's why you see that some of these projects are having a greater scope. For instance, what we're doing in sustainability in this country is being shared with other countries. We're having an initiative here, a global center, that will help in sustainable tourism to move to work towards net zero,” the advisor said.
“That’s a multi-country, multi-stakeholder coalition that is starting here that will benefit not only Saudi Arabia, but everyone. So you will see that a lot of these projects will benefit the entire sector, not only the country, which is why it has a lot of attention from around the world, because the transformation is not only helping the country, but a lot of other countries,” she added.