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Saudi Arabia reopens borders for foreign tourists

RIYADH: In a bid to boost its tourism sector, Saudi Arabia has decided to reopen its land, sea and air borders for foreign tourists.

Saudi Arabia’s Deputy Minister of Tourism for Strategy and Investment Princess Haifa Al Saud said that Riyadh will start receiving foreign tourists from 17th of May.

“As many as 93 new companies have entered the Kingdom’s tourism market and the government has provided SR120 billion as incentives for the sector to counter the effects of coronavirus,” Princess Haifa said, adding that the volume of domestic spending on tourism increased by 33 per cent over the past summer.

She maintained that the kingdom’s tourism sector started receiving foreign tourists in 2019. “However, during the coronavirus pandemic, our first task was the safety and security of citizens and expatriates in Saudi Arabia, and we were able to provide the vaccine and reached a stage that enabled us to open the land and airports.”

“In 2018, the contribution of the tourism sector to the gross domestic product (GDP) was 3.2 per cent, which is equal to SR147 billion of the volume of spending, and in 2019 it amounted to SR169 billion, with an increase of 3.5 per cent. In 2020, the volume of spending dropped to SR63 billion due to coronavirus-related procedures, resulting in a sharp drop in the number of pilgrims” Princess Haifa added.

According to Princess Haifa, the percentage of women working in the tourism sector reached 11 per cent and the tourism sector’s contribution to GDP at the global level is 7.9 per cent and it ranges between 10 and 12 per cent in the countries which attract the largest number of tourists, Gulf News reported.

 “The volume of foreign investments in the tourism sector is SR30 billion, and a total of 50,000 new hotel rooms will be operational within two years. The first phase of the tourism strategy targets eight destinations and this will contribute to creating new jobs,” she said adding that the government’s priority is to empower Saudi men and women who possess many skills to work in tourism,” she said.

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