Target to attract 11-4m tourists

“The Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA) is looking for a growth of four percent in terms of tourist arrivals,” said Abdullah S. Al-Jehani, SCTA vice president for marketing & media affairs, while addressing a press conference here on Tuesday.
Al-Jehani revealed several facts and figures about the Kingdom’s tourism industry, saying that a high-profile Saudi Travel & Tourism Investment Market (STTIM) organized by SCTA will be inaugurated in Riyadh by Gov. Prince Salman on March 28.
This five-day event, which will provide a strong business forum for companies operating in the travel and hospitality sector, will further help facilitate the sustainable growth and success of the Saudi tourism industry.
Fahd Al-Jarboa, SCTA’s deputy director general, and Mohammed Al-Hussaini, deputy general manager of the Riyadh International Exhibition Center, also addressed newsmen.
Al-Jarboa said that the STTIM is an annual flagship event for the Kingdom’s tourism industry. He said that several seminars and lectures on various aspects of the tourism industry will also be organized on March 29 and 30 on the sidelines of the STTIM.
Cultural events have also been lined up on the occasion and more than 150 companies mainly operating in the travel and tourism sector will participate in the event.
Asked about the tourist arrivals in Saudi Arabia, Al-Jehani said that the total number of tourists who arrived in the Kingdom including pilgrims and businessmen exceeded 10.5 million in 2009. “This includes three million Umrah pilgrims and about 1.7 million Haj pilgrims,” said the SCTA official, adding that foreign businessmen visiting the Kingdom constitute 24 percent of that figure.
“In fact, we have seen substantial growth in foreign tourist arrivals,” he added.
On the need to further simplify visa procedures, he said that all tourists willing to visit Saudi Arabia should use registered tour operators. The Kingdom has been accepting tourist groups from many Western countries, Japan, China and other countries.
“The intention, however, is to develop the sector and ensure simplifying the visa process at a later stage,” he added.
Saudi Arabia, which is one of the top 22 highest inbound travel markets in the world, has a combined annual tourism market of almost SR52 billion.
Speaking about the STTIM, Al-Jehani pointed out that all 14 regions of the Kingdom besides major Saudi cities will showcase their products and services at the STTIM to lure more tourists. 
Saudi Arabia’s tourism industry is greatly under served and requires billions of Saudi riyals in investments to develop it to its full potential.
In 2007 alone, investors put more than SR30 billion into tourism projects in the Kingdom. Future plans for the tourism industry in the Kingdom come with an ambitious employment target.
In 2020, the market should be able to provide 900,000 jobs in the industry, or 40 percent of current government jobs.

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