Ministers discuss ways to boost Gulf tourism

Ministers discuss ways to boost Gulf tourism
GCC ministers for culture and tourism hold a meeting in Riyadh on Wednesday. (SPA)
Updated 13 October 2016

Ministers discuss ways to boost Gulf tourism

Ministers discuss ways to boost Gulf tourism

RIYADH: Ministers of tourism from the Gulf Cooperation Council states held their third meeting on Wednesday in Riyadh under the chairmanship of Prince Sultan bin Salman, president of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage (SCTNH). Also participating was GCC Secretary-General Abdul Latif Al Zayani.
Prince Sultan delivered the opening speech in which he welcomed the heads of delegations participating in the meeting on behalf of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman.
Prince Sultan said that GCC countries are blessed with security, stability and economic development in a region engulfed in conflicts due to the statesmanship of GCC rulers, adding that this state of affairs makes it imperative on all to join efforts and work on maintaining and promoting this stability and bringing together Gulf citizens who have a shared history and are linked by common cultural characteristics and social components.
He added that the tourism sector no longer means entertainment only, but involves other aspects, like economy, social development and security, and this requires that GCC states invest significantly and pool together resources to achieve the aspired economic returns and create jobs for young people.
Prince Sultan said interface tourism and integration among GCC countries should be a priority for tourism ministers. He stressed the importance of developing interface tourism and forging closer links among GCC nationals, as well as developing effective and genuine partnerships with the private sector to secure investment in tourism sector, which in turn will contribute to the employment of Gulf citizens and bolster the economy.
Qatar's Minister of Economy and Commerce Sheikh Ahmed bin Jassim Al-Thani said in his speech: "The tourism sector is one of the main economic instruments that could play a pivotal role in strengthening the march of the GCC countries towards the diversification of their economies and in supporting their ability to respond to the fluctuations of oil price and their repercussions."
He noted that the global economic realities made it necessary for GCC countries to find a new economic model and accelerate the development of non-oil sectors, particularly tourism, as well as to take measures which ensure that this important sector contributes to the overall economic development.
He called on all Gulf states to pool efforts to promote the tourism sector, build a unified Gulf strategy in support of this vital sector and take serious steps to boost tourism among the states of the region, to ensure achieving the objectives in this sector and to promote the economic and social ties between Gulf people, which, in turn, helps develop tourism with all its auxiliary sectors in the various GCC countries.
Sheikh Ahmed praise the initiative launched by Prince Sultan and called for improving joint work in tourism through creating a Specialized Ministerial Committee, an initiative supported and adopted by Qatar.
The secretary-general of the GCC countries delivered a speech in which he expressed gratitude and appreciation to the SCTNH president for his initiative to hold a joint meeting of ministers of tourism and ministers of culture of the GCC countries, during which participants could discuss visions and ideas for promoting cooperation between these two important sectors of sustainable development.
He highlighted the second annual exhibition of crafts and arts, organized by SCTNH in Saudi Arabia, in which GCC member states participate, wishing the exhibition success, and thanked the tourism ministers of the GCC countries for their unremitting efforts and endeavors to revitalize the tourism sector in the Gulf region.
"The tourism sector in the GCC countries achieved tangible leaps over the past years, represented in increased numbers of historical sites and tourist facilities, as well as leisure hotels and resorts, and recreational cities. This has contributed to a substantial increase in the number of tourists and visitors.
"The GCC region has turned into a favorite tourist destination because of its safe and stable environment, and the sophisticated tourist services, comparable to those of the developed countries," he added.
Al-Zayani pointed out that Gulf citizenship is a reason for pride as it guarantees unrestricted freedom of movement, and this contributed to the increase in the number of travelers among GCC countries, which amounts to about 25 million per year.
He said the population of the Gulf region, including citizens and foreign residents, stands at 57 million people and this can form the driving force for cross-border tourism in the GCC region if thoughtful plans are put in place to attract local tourists and provide better services.
The secretary general highlighted the ambitious and comprehensive vision for joint tourism action among GCC member states submitted by the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage.
The vision has been enriched by scientific and practical proposals by all member states, aimed at making GCC countries one of the most important tourist destinations in the world.
"Such a vision, once adopted, will represent a quantum leap in the joint work in the field of tourism of GCC member states," concluded Al-Zayani.