Taking a collaborative approach for the future
The year 2020 was to have been a breakout year for Saudi Arabian tourism. We issued more than 500,000 tourism visas following their introduction in September 2019. This strong interest made Saudi Arabia the fastest-growing destination in the world. Despite the current challenges, we continue to work hard to protect and facilitate opportunities for local and international travel companies.
Developing a tourism ecosystem that meets the needs of the ‘new normal’ demands a collaborative approach. We are working with public and private sector partners and with the international community to deliver high quality travel experiences, ensure the safety and wellbeing of our visitors and maximise the economic benefit of tourism for the nation.
When people are ready to travel, Saudi Arabia will be ready to welcome them.
PREPARING FOR THE FUTURE
As we prepare for the future of the industry, we must support it through the hard times. As part of the government’s progamme to repatriate Saudis stranded overseas, we rented more than 11,000 hotel rooms to use as quarantine accommodation. This provides tangible support to the local hospitality industry.
“The Red Sea coast alone offers opportunities to explore the ancient Nabatean city of AlUla, the lush Aseer mountains, the energetic and culturally rich city of Jeddah and the extraordinary, unspoiled Red Sea reefs. There is much to see and do in Saudi”
– Fahd Hamidaddin
Our recent waiver of licensing fees for tourism companies benefits both existing and new businesses. And our work with the WTTC and UNWTO, part of Saudi Arabia's leadership of the G20, supports international collaboration to address the pandemic.
We are also taking a proactive approach toward preparing for the future. We are partnering with the Ministries of Health, Sports, Commerce and Municipalities to develop the necessary regulations and infrastructure to support the industry.
We are introducing stringent processes to protect the health of visitors and employees. And we are working with SMEs and hospitality providers to encourage visitors to explore everything that the country has to offer.
CONNECTING WITH THE WORLD
People want to travel, and they will travel, but the tourism industry will not open all at once. As restrictions ease, we expect a phased reopening of the industry. Domestic tourism is likely to be the first sector to open up.
We are developing packages so that, when the time is right, we can help Saudis discover the treasures on their own doorstep. Saudis are keen explorers and the Kingdom has much to offer. The Red Sea coast alone offers opportunities to explore the ancient Nabatean city of AlUla, the lush Aseer mountains, the energetic and culturally rich city of Jeddah and the extraordinary, unspoiled Red Sea reefs. And our growing entertainment industry offers world-class music and live sport. There is much to see and do in Saudi Arabia.
Along with the rest of the world, we look forward to the borders opening so we can welcome visitors to enjoy our renowned hospitality. Until then, events like Arabian Travel Market help us connect with our peers and partners, while encouraging and inspiring us for the future.
* The writer is Chief of Investment, Strategy and Tourism Marketing, Saudi Ministry of Tourism