Saudi aims to be in world’s top tourist destinations

Saudi Arabia wants to be one of the world's most visited countries by 2030
2 min read
05 November, 2019
The National Tourism Strategy aims to create a million new jobs in the tourism industry, in a move to diversify the Kingdom’s economy from oil.
The Saudi tourism industry contributes approximately 3.3% of the Kingdom’s GDP. [Getty]

Saudi Arabia's new tourism strategy is hoping to pull the kingdom into the top five tourist destinations in the world by 2030.

The National Tourism Strategy aims at creating a million new jobs in the kingdom's growing tourism industry, in a move to diversify the economy away from a reliance on oil.

This move by the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage also hopes to nationalise large portions of the sector such as tourism offices and tour organisers. 

The strategy aims to create more work for Saudis in restaurants, hotels, transport, construction, souvenir shops and similar services.

These are jobs that have traditionally been low-paid and dominated by foreigners and it is not clear if Saudis will fill these roles.

Saudi Arabia has launched a tourism visa programme to boost the number of visitors to the kingdom, after the economy was hit hard by low oil prices and questions over the future of oil and gas.

The Saudi tourism industry is expected to generate more than $25 billion in 2019, which contributes approximately 3.3 percent of the kingdom's GDP, as reported by the World Travel and Tourism Council.

The ultra-conservative kingdom's 
visa programme allows holidaymakers from 49 countries to visit one of the world's most closed-off countries. For years, the only foreigners allowed into the country were mainly Muslim pilgrims and business people. 

"Opening Saudi Arabia to international tourists is a historic moment for our country," tourism chief Ahmed al-Khateeb said in a statement.

"Visitors will be surprised... by the treasures we have to share - five UNESCO World Heritage Sites, a vibrant local culture and breathtaking natural beauty."

Riyadh's reputation has been damaged with the murder of Jamal Khashoggi by leading security officials, at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is steering the kingdom's diversification plans, has also been criticised for a crackdown on activists, including women's rights' campaigners.