Published on : Thursday, January 25, 2018
But the conservative country is still seen as an implausible destination for global tourists besides the Muslim pilgrims visiting the holy sites of Mecca and Medina.
Now in the midst of historic social change, the kingdom is seeking a place on the global tourism map by promoting sites such as the Al Wahbah crater, which is widely unheard of even in Saudi Arabia.
The little-known crater, barely a four-hour drive from the western city of Jeddah, is a remnant of volcanic activity. Local tourism is almost missing in this place.
In recent months, authorities have built roads and markers to the site and constructed picnic shelters around the rim of the crater.
Tourism is one of the key elements of Vision 2030, the blueprint to prepare the biggest Arab economy for the post-oil era, which was conceived by powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
In August, the kingdom announced a multi-million dollar project to turn 50 islands and other pristine sites on the Red Sea into luxury resorts. It also plans to develop historic sites such as the centuries-old Mada’in Saleh, home to sandstone tombs of the same civilization which built the Jordanian city of Petra.
Saudi Arabia aims to nearly double the annual number of tourists to 30 million by 2030.
Tourism chief Prince Sultan bin Salman bin Abdulaziz said, “The kingdom is a very big treasure,” while describing its stunning landscapes. He added, “We’re not just oil traders.”
In an effort to change perceptions, Saudi Arabia has relaxed some of its most rigid rules.
Tags: saudi arabia