RIYADH: The ongoing tourism projects in Saudi Arabia which includes the $500-billion megacity NEOM are supporting the growth of surrounding villages, both socially and economically, according to the Kingdom’s tourism minister.
Speaking during a panel at the Saudi Green Initiative forum held on the sidelines of the UN Climate Change Conference in Dubai on Monday, Ahmed Al-Khateeb said that all the upcoming tourist destinations in Saudi Arabia are being built with sustainability factor at the core.
“If we go to all the villages around the Tabuk region, they were all benefitted by the development in NEOM. They found jobs, they sell products, they are getting trained, and all these projects are investing in these small villages and towns,” said Al-Khateeb.
He added: “We are investing $800 billion in the next 10 years to build new destinations; NEOM, Red Sea, Asir, Diriyah etc. These new destinations are really putting the environment and climate at the top of their agenda.”
Al-Khateeb also noted that these tourism projects in Saudi Arabia are using environmentally friendly materials for their construction, and asserted that the Kingdom always gives priority to economic and environmental sustainability.
“We are putting everything to make sure that the climate, nature and environment are protected,” added the minister.
He further noted that tourism will contribute to almost 10 percent of the Kingdom’s gross domestic product by the end of this decade, as outlined in Vision 2030.
“Saudi Arabia wants to unlock the travel and tourism sector, that represents just 3 percent of the GDP in 2019. By the end of this year, tourism’s contribution to the GDP will reach 7 percent, and we are hitting 10 percent by 2030 or maybe even higher,” added Al-Khateeb.
The tourism minister added that Saudi Arabia is expected to welcome 26 million international visitors in 2023, compared to 10 million in 2019.
He added that Expo 2030 will increase the number of foreign visitors to the Kingdom, and the government is doing everything to conduct the event in a seamless manner.
“We are getting ourselves ready with the Riyadh Airport, which is huge with a 120 million passenger capacity. We are expanding hotel rooms. Riyadh will add about 100,000 key rooms in the next 10 years, in addition to the 250,000 key rooms we have today,” said Al-Khateeb.
He concluded: “We will have 40 million visitors targeted to expo, and the majority of them will come from outside. Therefore, 2030 will be an exceptional year, and it will really celebrate the end of the first Vision — the Vision 2030.”