Published on : Tuesday, September 29, 2020
Saudi Arabia is preparing for a quick bounce back in tourism, not having revised its visitor targets for 2021 in spite of the corona virus pandemic, said Tourism Minister Ahmed Al-Khateeb.
As Saudi Arabia prepares to reopen its borders for foreign tourists in January, the kingdom is using its presidency of the Group-of-20 biggest economies to aid restart of global travel, said Al-Khateeb.
“If countries today open their borders, we will be fit to run fast, and this is the plan,” said Al-Khateeb, who is a key adviser to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. “We believe people want to travel and they will continue to travel, but we need countries to coordinate their actions, he said.
The corona pandemic forced Saudi Arabia to close its borders in March, thereby upsetting the government’s ambitions to expand its travel industry. While the number of international visitors slumped, domestic tourism witnessed a boom going past official projections and helping offset that decline.
Tourism is an important tool of Saudi Arabia’s plans for diversifying the oil-dependent economy. The corona virus has devastated the global tourism industry, and the World Travel and Tourism Council has estimated a loss of around 100 million jobs.
Official tourism targets for next year remain unchanged, Al-Khateeb said, and the government is thinking about developing the sector to make up 10% of economic output by 2030.
“We built the ecosystem, we have the international campaigns ready, we have developed the visitor experience and we are ready to capture the numbers we promised to capture,” Al-Khateeb said.
Al-Khateeb added that Saudi tourism could go down as much as 45% this year.
A $4 billion tourism development fund created by the government in June signed its first deal a few days before, and has “five other projects in the pipeline before the end of the year,” Al-Khateeb said. Saudi Arabia launched its first cruise last month, though the maiden voyage was halted after an assumed corona virus case. Sailings have since resumed.
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