Saudi Arabia and the big tourist cake


ACCORDING to 2018 World Tourism Organization (WTO) data, the contribution of the tourist sector to global GDP was about 10.4 percent representing more than eight trillion dollars. At the level of labor markets, the contribution of tourism in the world was 9.9 percent representing about 313.2 million job opportunities.

The WTO report said the expenditure of travelers around the world in 2019 was $1.49 trillion representing about 6.5 percent of total global exports.

It said that tourism investments in the world reached $882.4 billion representing about 4.5 percent of total global investments during the year 2017.

The report expected the number of international visitors in the world to reach 2.09 billion and said the contribution of the tourist sector would increase by about $12.5 trillion in 2028.

The Kingdom has decided to get its share of this large cake through its Vision 2030 program being led by its young and dynamic Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman.

The Kingdom is determined to cut a piece of the cake which is commensurate with the size of its economy, potentials and natural, environmental and cultural resources.

This will be in line with the Kingdom’s concerted endeavors to establish an integrated economy in industry, mines and alternative energy (solar, nuclear and wind energy) or in the logistical and service sectors that are not influenced by the price of oil or its depletion.

You can, therefore, dear reader, imagine a country the size of a continent enjoying a strategic position between three continents with deserts, high mountains on which the snow falls throughout the year, forests, plateau, plains and shores which are more than 2,500 km long.

The Kingdom has more than 1,280 islands with varied weather during the four seasons.

It has antiquities extending from the stone age and ancient civilizations from 5,000 BC to the third Saudi dynasty and more than 10,000 heritage and cultural locations of which 500 are mentioned in old Arabic poetry and 400 in the sayings of the Prophet (peace be upon him).

The Kingdom also has a variety of cultural, architectural, art and popular locations that have no parallel.

Moreover, the Kingdom has a strong basic infrastructure that can easily be developed to accommodate millions of tourists.

It has gigantic projects on which work is progressing such as the Neom, the Red Sea Project and Qiddaya, the largest entertainment city in the world.

The Kingdom, in my view, is rediscovering itself before unearthing its tourist treasures. It is presenting itself to people as a country replete with attractive religious and tourist attractions.

The world and the region must be prepared for the strong entry of Saudi Arabia into the tourist sector which usually occupies third place in contribution to global GDP.

This is a tremendous opportunity that Saudis should not miss. They should be determined to have a very large slice of the tourist cake.

— Mohammed Al-Sultan is a Saudi writer