Despite the critical situation of pandemic Saudi Arabia has not yet altered its tourist target for 2021 with a strong belief of the Kingdom for a quick recovery in tourism, says Tourism Minister Ahmed Al-Khateeb.
The Kingdom is currently planning to reopen its borders by January 2021 to the tourists and using its presidency of the Group of 20 largest economies in the world to easily proceed with the revival of global tourism, Al-Khateeb added.
Saudi Arabia was forced to shut its borders in March 2020 due to the pandemic which made the government’s desire to broaden its tourism sector standstill just six months after permitting travelers to visit the country for the first time.
Even though the number of international visitors dropped due to the pandemic the boom in domestic tourism exceeded the country’s predictions and it helped to neutralize the decline in foreign tourists.
“If countries today open their borders, we will be fit to run fast and this is the plan, We believe people want to travel and they will continue to travel, but we need countries to coordinate their actions.”
Tourism is an integral part of Saudi Arabia’s vision to switch into a less oil-dependent economy. Even though the pandemic has wrecked the sector globally, the country is still planning to expand the industry to make up 10% of economic output by 2030.
Al-Khateeb asserts that the country is all prepared to achieve the number of tourists they have planned to capture. He also states that the Kingdom has already developed the ecosystem, the international campaigns and the visitor experience.
The ministry of tourism in April stated that the sector could plunge up to 45 percent in 2020. Since the borders were closed in March the country saw a hike in domestic tourists which was over 50 percent than the official estimations.
As part of the country’s mission to promote summer tourism, the government had chosen ten sites and created about $ 2.3 billion from June 25 to August 31 and when compared to the previous year the revenue had increased by 31 percent. Hotel occupancy in these spots also rose by 80% over the summer, compared to just 5% earlier in the pandemic.
The government has generated a $4 billion tourism development fund in June and the first deal was signed a few days ago and the country is planning to complete five projects by the end of 2020.
The fund has agreed to partner with Al Oula Group to finance the development of a five-star hotel operated by Fairmont Hotels & Resorts Inc., in Khobar.
Last month the country launched its first cruise although the initial voyage was suspended due to a suspected coronavirus case, the sailing has restarted.