Saudi Arabia, World Bank pledge $100mn worth fund to develop sustainable tourism

By Ashika Rajan, Trainee Reporter
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According to Saudi Arabia’s tourism Minister Mr. Ahmed Al Khateeb, the country in partnership with the World Bank has pledged $100 million to establish a global fund for inclusive tourism.

Mr. Al Khateeb remarked that “this will be the first and the only global fund dedicated solely to sustainable international tourism growth. This is a significant step towards a more inclusive, resilient, and sustainable future for our sector, an opportunity to create a more responsible approach to tourism that uplifts communities and drives economies while preserving the environment and respecting local cultures.”

The travel and tourism industry was one of the hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic, which halted travel due to mobility restrictions enforced to stop the virus’s spread. According to the World Travel & Tourism Council, more than 62 million tourism jobs were lost last year.

Travel is slowly restarting this year as a worldwide vaccination deployment picks up speed and governments begin establishing travel corridors as infections ebb. Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest oil exporter, is one of the several countries planning to open its doors to tourists.

It is working on several sustainable projects, including Neom, a $500 billion futuristic metropolis with a nature reserve, coral reefs, and heritage sites, the Red Sea Development Project, which includes islands off the city’s western coast, and Qiddiya, a massive entertainment, and sports project in the capital.

Last year, the country set up the Tourism Development Fund (TDF), with an initial investment of $4 billion, to help the sector flourish in the kingdom.

The Minister pointed out that “our Giga projects will combine nature-adventure and cultural attractions in a way that adheres to the highest environmental standards. More importantly, they will also be attractive places to visit and live in.”

“In Neom, we are developing the world’s first city with no streets, no cars, and no carbon emissions. The Red Sea Project will be the largest global destination powered solely by clean energy with no connection to the national grid,” the Minister added

According to Mr. Al Khateeb, the country also plans to plant 10 billion trees as part of its green initiative.

Mr. Zurab Pololikashvili, Secretary-General of the UN World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) stated that it has opened a regional office in Riyadh, which “is a sign of hope for many people”.

Mr. Pololikashvili said that “Riyadh and the Kingdom is one of the countries, there are not many of them, during the pandemic which is still investing in the tourism industry.”

Saudi Arabia’s TDF said last month that it will jointly finance a $346 million project in Madinah aimed at maximizing the holy city’s tourism potential.

Related: Saudi mega tourism project Amaala may raise up to $2.7bn in 2022