TOURISM: Saudi Pins Hopes on China

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Saudi Arabia minister says China significant market for kingdom’s tourism market

Saudi Arabia’s Tourism Minister Ahmed Al Khateeb said China is an important tourism market, and the Arab country hopes that more Chinese tourists would visit to learn about Saudi heritage, culture and people.

“China is one of Saudi Arabia’s main trade partners, and we have been enjoying Chinese culture and heritage for many years, especially the delicious food that can be found everywhere in Saudi Arabia. Now we want the Chinese to come,” he told Xinhua before the 116th United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) Executive Council Meeting in Jeddah.

“We want to diversify our economy to share our culture and heritage with the world and therefore tourism is the main pillar in Saudi Vision 2030,” he added.

The minister said Saudi Arabia had launched the National Tourism Strategy in 2019, which promoted the kingdom to open up to the rest of the world, in which China is one of those countries whose citizens could get online visas in a few minutes.

When asked to comment on Chinese tourists’ role in the global tourism industry, Al Khateeb said: “Back in 2019, China is the world number one when it comes to the number of tourists across the world.”

The Saudi minister noted the global tourism sector was in the recovery phase, after the drastic decline in tourism revenues because of the COVID-19-related travel restrictions and other health measures.

“The sector (worldwide) used to employ 330 million people back in 2019, just before the pandemic, and we lost more than 60 million jobs during the pandemic, and now we are recovering,” he said.

The minister said that the recovery of the sector is very important for the global economy, jobs, and prosperity.

Regarding the tourism sector in Saudi Arabia, he revealed plans to invest heavily in the sector that represents about 4 percent of the kingdom’s GDP.

“We want to take it to 10 percent by 2030, therefore, Saudi Arabia has announced its plans to develop more than six new destinations and invest more than 300 billion U.S. dollars in the next 10 years in the sector,” Al Khateeb said.

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Similar to China, Al Khateeb said all Saudi tourism development plans should consider the crucial aspects of protecting the environment.

The minister also revealed the kingdom’s ongoing cooperation with the UNWTO which resulted in the opening of its first Middle East regional office in Riyadh.

The 116th UNWTO Executive Council Meeting in Jeddah brings together global tourism leaders to shape the future of the tourism sector, which aims to foster close coordination between members to boost the recovery of global tourism.

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