SR1.35bn allotted for SMEs in Saudi tourism sector

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Prince Sultan Bin Salman, president of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage, said the Kingdom will have new tourism destinations in the western region. He noted that they got the approval for creating Quran Oases in Madinah, two museums in Makkah, one museum in Badr, among other projects. He added that they want the pilgrims’ visit to the Kingdom to be a remarkable experience and noted that the focus is not on what they spend in the country. Therefore, they want to increase activities and places that pilgrims could visit. He noted that they now have up to 400 trained tourist guides who are authorized by the commission.

Asked about their supervision on hotels and furnished apartments, he said that they are now having 300,000 hotel rooms and are implementing classifications for them. “Some of them are not classified yet, but we cannot close down the market at once so everything will go gradually,” he explained.

Prince Sultan further said that they have signed agreements with some 16 hotels to introduce designs inspired by local culture.

Among these projects is a project for a hotel in Riyadh where 500 handicraft makers are involved in designing 200 rooms. Some other 40 projects have also been financed by Turathuna Company. He added that they also support locals who want to turn their homes into hotels and are also supporting camping projects. He added that there are 67 farms that have been tuned into hotels and open areas.

Among their projects is “Live Saudi Arabia” which allow students to experience the different cultures and places in the Kingdom. “Unfortunately many are not aware of their own country and a few students have not actually visited the capital city. To create sense of nationalism, it is crucial to visit different locations in the country.”

Moreover, He said that they have signed various agreements with different government departments and they are optimistic as more rooms for organized financing opportunities are being offered to investors and locals.

The prince likewise said that the Saudi citizens are reacting more quickly to the national tourism. The tourism sector is the second sector when it comes to implementing Saudization, yet it still remains the least supported sector.

The sector, he explained, was not supported previously due to absence in believing in it, but now more is being offered to this sector. Tourism, he said, is not only about entertainment; rather it is turning to be a primary sector that offers sustainable development and growth opportunities for investors. The prince was talking at the second annual Tourist Furnished Apartments Forum here at Jeddah. Hassan Dahlan, Secretary General of the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry, highlighted the importance of unifying government regulations to ease investment in this sector. While Osama Al-Mubarak, the head of Kafala program, noted that they have allocated in previous years SR270 millions to support small and medium enterprises in the tourism sector and added that they will increase this budget to SR1.35 billion.

This article was originally published in Saudi Gazette.

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