The Supreme Economic Council (SEC) has approved the establishment of new tourism development companies with government participation. The SEC's latest move to develop the country's domestic tourism as a vital economic sector also include encouraging various credit agencies to extend loans to tourism projects and opening the Saudi skies for new airlines companies.
The new SEC decisions are prompted by the recommendations of its permanent committee to provide necessary support to develop the tourism sector. The committee also aims to find employment for local people and attract private investments, Al-Watan daily reported.
The proposed establishment of tourism development companies with government participation in capital investment is in line with the recent decision of the Council of Ministers to establish domestic tourism development companies.
These companies are to develop tourist centers, especially in areas that lack tourist facilities
The SEC wants to start opening up possibilities for long-term investments and the lease of public tourist locations as per the agreement between the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Municipal and Rural affairs, the Ministry of Agriculture and the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA).
The SEC also plans to create an investment environment for tourism development by simplifying regulations for the conversion of agricultural land into tourism projects and by permitting more domestic and foreign airline companies to operate in the country.
SCTA President Prince Sultan bin Salman, said recently that Saudi Arabia would become a top tourist center in the Arab world with big recreational projects under way.
Saudi tourism is a big project. We need to develop infrastructure to promote tourism and we need larger private sector investments in the sector
"Saudi tourism is a big project. We need to develop infrastructure to promote tourism and we need larger private sector investments in the sector," the prince said on Al-Arabiya Television Channel.
"Tourism is the second largest provider of jobs, accounting for 26 percent of the total number of jobs in the Kingdom and Saudis are happy to work in this vital sector," Prince Sultan pointed out.
Kingdom's travel and tourism industry is set to grow to SR 55.8 billion in 2012
According to recent estimates, the Kingdom's travel and tourism industry is set to grow to SR 55.8 billion in 2012 compared to SR 38.9 billion recorded in 2009.
The World Board of Travel and Tourism said that the industry is expected to represent 2.9 percent of the GDP this year as compared to 2.7 percent in 2009.
Companies in both Saudi Arabia and the Gulf Cooperation Council countries involved in the industry will develop their services in expectation of robust growth.
The number of tourists heading to Saudi Arabia is expected to reach 15.8 million by 2014, up from around 13 million in 2010, according to international industry consultant Business Monitor International (BMI).