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| 22 February, 2017

Saudi tourism to reach $81bln by 2026

Image used for illustrative purpose.
A Saudi man gets himself ready to release his falcon as he takes part in a falcon contest in a desert near Tabuk city January 17, 2014.  The participants at the contest compete for the fastest falcon at attacking its prey and the owner of the winning bird is rewarded 200,000 Saudi Riyal ($53,000). Falconry is part of Bedouin life in Saudi Arabia where these birds are used for hunting rabbits and other desert animals. REUTERS/Mohamed Al Hwaity

Image used for illustrative purpose. A Saudi man gets himself ready to release his falcon as he takes part in a falcon contest in a desert near Tabuk city January 17, 2014. The participants at the contest compete for the fastest falcon at attacking its prey and the owner of the winning bird is rewarded 200,000 Saudi Riyal ($53,000). Falconry is part of Bedouin life in Saudi Arabia where these birds are used for hunting rabbits and other desert animals. REUTERS/Mohamed Al Hwaity

Reuters/Mohamed Al Hwaity

22 February 2017
Saudi Arabia’s travel and tourism sector is expected to contribute more than $81 billion to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) by 2026, according to data from the World Travel and Tourism Council. Exhibitors are preparing to showcase what the Kingdom has to offer at this year’s Arabian Travel Market (ATM), which is being held in the Dubai World Trade Center from April 23-27.

This is being driven, in part, by domestic tourism the number of local tourist trips inside Saudi Arabia exceeded 47.5 million last year a 2.3 percent rise compared to 2015. Under the Saudi government’s Vision 2030, plans are afoot to increase household spending on cultural and entertainment activities inside the country, from 2.9 percent to 6 percent.

Simon Press, senior exhibition director, ATM 2017, commented: “Plans are already well underway to achieve this target. The government has appointed the board of the General Entertainment Authority, and Six Flags has revealed exciting plans to expand into the country, with the first entertainment park scheduled to open as soon as 2020-21.

“Vision 2030 also seeks to double the number of UNESCO heritage sites to encourage more domestic tourism, while both Holy Mosques have large expansion plans, with have major infrastructure works underway or in the pipeline that would assist with travel to and within these religious sites.”

Saudi exhibitors at ATM 2017 will highlight what the Kingdom has to offer and developments in the pipeline. As well as the possible Six Flags theme park, Riyadh is also expected to see the opening of two major shopping malls: Mall of Saudi, with 300,000 square meters of retail and entertainment space, a large snow park and hotels, and The Avenues Riyadh, a $1.9 billion shopping complex. Another mega project that is bound to draw Saudi tourists is Kingdom Tower in Jeddah, proposed to be the world’s next tallest building.

Colliers International’s Saudi Arabia Hospitality Market report revealed domestic tourism will grow by 7.5 percent per annum until 2020, compared to 6.1 percent for overseas visitors.

Earlier this month, Prince Sultan bin Salman, president of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage (SCTH), said Saudi Arabia will become “one of the biggest players” in the industry. This followed news of additional government investment in tourism totalling $800 million.

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© Arab News 2017