Today, we celebrate the five-year anniversary of the launch of Vision 2030 by Prince Mohammad bin Salman, Crown Prince, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense of Saudi Arabia. Since the inception of the Vision, the Kingdom has made incredible strides towards comprehensive development across various sectors, reflecting our competitive advantage and the strategic significance of our geographical location.
We opened the doors to foreign investment and succeeded in attracting the strongest global investments, redefining the tourism industry and accomplishing a series of important social and cultural reforms that were impossible to imagine just a decade ago.
And stemming from the Kingdom’s awareness of the need to disrupt our economic dependence on oil, diversify sources of income, and develop human capital, we saw it necessary to make changes to ensure our growth and future development. We succeeded in achieving record non-oil revenues last year, which accounted for 46.5 percent of the state’s total revenues, up from a 90 percent reliance on oil-related income in the past.
The tourism sector, as one a main driver of Vision 2030, has enjoyed unlimited support from the wise leadership, leading to a significant boom in the tourism industry. A royal order was issued to establish the Ministry of Tourism, with the aim of overseeing all aspects of the tourism sector in Saudi Arabia, including regulating, developing and promoting it, in addition to strengthening the role of the tourism sector and overcoming obstacles to its growth leveraging the tremendous potential of the Kingdom. A number of ambitious achievements have been met, and we have taken important measures to develop the sector. These include the innovative e-visa solution that enabled tourists from 49 countries to obtain instant visas, counting more than 440,000 visas through March 2020, leading to Saudi Arabia’s well-deserved recognition by the World Travel and Tourism Council as the fastest growing tourist destination in the world, since the launch of the visa.
Our efforts resulted in an increase in the Tourism Spending Index from 130.5 billion riyals in 2015 to 164.6 billion riyals in 2019, an increase of 26 percent. The Spirit of Saudi Arabia platform was also launched, featuring a calendar of various events and activities.
The Tourism Development Fund was also established with a capital of 15 billion riyals to attract investments and finance tourism facilities. More than 67 tourism projects with a value of over 200 million riyals have been granted loans
We strive for the tourism sector to be a primary engine for economic growth and human capital development, providing investment opportunities and new jobs; we plan to add one million job opportunities by 2030, and are currently working on launching training and qualification programs at the level of the tourism and hospitality sectors. We launched the “Your Future is Tourism” campaign in March 2021, which will help create 100,000 new jobs for Saudi nationals by the end of this year. The Ministry of Tourism is implementing regulatory reforms to simplify procedures for doing business, including licensing and classification systems for the hotel sector, which ensure the ease of issuing licenses and adopting digital solutions. These successes notwithstanding, the Ministry of Tourism is still at the beginning of the journey, and is preparing to build a tourism future that befits the aspirations and vision of the Kingdom’s leadership.
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has gained great fame for its mega projects such as NEOM, Amala, Red Sea, Qiddiya and Diriyah Gate which provide an integrated scheme for sustainability and lifestyle, and which are being developed as models to be emulated around the world. Smart city The Line, a zero-carbon emissions city with no cars or streets that is part of NEOM, is a pioneering new model which will help encourage tourism and provide luxury entertainment options for Saudis and residents, making the Kingdom one of the best places to live in the world.
As for the “Quality of Life” program, it aims to provide new opportunities for citizens to enjoy cultural, entertainment and sports activities. Under this program, we have worked to introduce concerts and reopen cinemas, and hosted the Diriyah Formula E race, held for the first time in the Middle East. The Diriyah Gate project in Riyadh has hosted heavyweight boxing and international tennis tournaments attracting some 1.2 million visitors to date.
In the military industries sector, we are working to develop the manufacturing capabilities of high-value military equipment and advanced technologies, which is necessary to strengthen Saudi industry and achieve self-sufficiency. We will work through the Saudi Military Industries Corporation to fulfill the Crown Prince’s promise to localize 50 percent of the Kingdom’s military spending by 2030, compared to 2 percent now. We aspire to be among the top 25 military industries companies worldwide. The company is committed to developing its supply chain, through joint ventures across its five business units and investments in strategic areas, ensuring that the Saudi military industries sector contributes 14 billion riyals to GDP by 2030, as well as creating 40,000 new jobs for Saudi nationals and residents. The joint venture, which was signed this year with Lockheed Martin, represents a remarkable achievement that supports these ambitions, reflecting the Kingdom’s commitment to developing an integrated defense industry system through global partnerships.
In other areas, the Saudi Fund for Development has signed 714 agreements since its inception in 1975, at a value of 61 billion riyals, to drive economic and social development and finance development projects and programs in 83 countries around the world.
In November 2020, we hosted a virtual meeting of the G20 leaders on the NEOM project, which resulted in the Riyadh Declaration. Hosting the summit was another milestone in the Kingdom’s efforts to enhance communication and dialog with the rest of the world, and I am very proud to be part of those efforts.
We are now at a juncture that necessitates a reassessment of our performance and plans, especially as the Kingdom and the world prepare to emerge from the pandemic and embark on the journey towards recovery. Now is the time to study and evaluate our progress and look at the lessons learned. We look forward to continuing on the ambitious path of prosperity for the Kingdom and building its future by relying on the capabilities of our national talents and maintaining the series of successes achieved during this record time.
This article was originally published in, and translated, from pan-arabian outlet Asharq al-Awsat.