Tourism Authority Set To Streamline Hospitality Sector

RIYADH: The Kingdom’s tourism sector got a major boost with the announcement on Sunday of a plan to issue new regulations to streamline the operation of hotels and furnished apartments.

The new regulations have been issued by the Supreme Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA). The body, which is empowered to cease or issue operational permits to tourist facilities and hotels, has also announced it has taken over four important archaeological sites at a cost of about SR19 million. The sites are to be restored and developed for tourism. “Payments have been made on the instructions of Prince Sultan bin Salman, SCTA’s chief,” said Ali bin Ibrahim Al-Ghabban, SCTA’s vice president.

It was also announced Sunday that the SCTA is to hold an international convention on urban heritage in Islamic countries, and cultural, social and economic development from April 18 to 23.

The conference will seek to assess the current state of urban and architectural heritage in Islamic countries, and identify a framework for the future development of their economic, social and cultural opportunities.

Referring to the SCTA move to acquire archaeological sites and develop them as tourist attractions, Al-Ghabban said the four sites — Zubaida and Al-Mulgata in Onaiza municipality, Ethra Palace in Al-Jouf and Eain Qanas in Al-Ahsa — are very important archaeologically. He said Prince Sultan has exerted huge efforts to secure the Shoura Council’s approval to address the issue of the ownership of sites and antiquities.

He said the SCTA was working to restore, maintain and reconstruct about 200 archaeological sites around the country. “The commission is also undertaking a project to classify and monitor the performance of tourism facilities, including hotels and furnished apartments,” said Salah Al-Bakheet, another SCTA official.

Al-Bakheet said the SCTA was developing new regulations for tourist accommodation in the Kingdom. The commission, he said, had completed the evaluation of all Saudi hotels.

More than 70 percent of furnished residential units in the Kingdom have also been classified, except for those located in the holy cities of Makkah and Madinah, he added.

“The first phase of the classification of the accommodation (hotels and furnished residential units) has been completed,” said Al-Bakheet, adding that this would help the SCTA correctly focus on policy building and the development of regulations and legislations, besides focusing on quality control.

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