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Saudi Arabia: A tourist destination like no other, expecting to attract 50 million tourists in 2022

Pearl of Saudi Arabia, Diriyah named Capital of Arab Culture for 2030

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is becoming an international tourist destination and expects to attract 50 million tourist visits in 2022.

In a recent interview with Bloomberg TV on the sidelines of the Green Saudi Forum, the Saudi Minister of Tourism, Ahmed Al-Khatib, said, “We have already started the journey of recovery, and it will continue until 2023 and 2024.”

Fully immunized tourists can enter Saudi Arabia without the need for an institutional quarantine period, provided that an official vaccination certificate is presented upon arrival, and proof of a PCR test and the appearance of its negative result within 72 hours from the time of departure.

Al-Khatib revealed a new centre focusing on sustainable tourism as part of the Kingdom’s efforts to reach carbon neutrality by 2060.

The Saudi tourism sector is on track to constitute more than 4% of the Kingdom’s GDP this year, compared to 3.5% in 2019.

Because of the pandemic, most of the 45 million tourist visits expected this year will be by residents.

The Kingdom had launched the tourist visa in September of the year 2019, in a historic decision in which Saudi Arabia opened its heart and its doors to tourists from different countries of the world, and at that time achieved remarkable numbers as 400,000 visas were issued within 6 months, before approving the travel suspension and closing ports and borders following the pandemic.

The tourism sector is one of the most important economic sectors, pointing out that it provided 330 million job opportunities around the world before the Covid-19 crisis, and that its contributions to the global GDP reached $9 trillion, and contributed to creating one in four new jobs around the world.

The Kingdom, despite being one of the newly active actors in the global tourism sector, succeeded in achieving a prominent position as the fastest growing global destination in a short period before the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. The Kingdom issued 400,000 electronic visas during the first few months after opening It opened its doors to global tourism.

The Kingdom is seeking to take advantage of the opportunity of convening the General Assembly of the United Nations World Tourism Organization, to call for renewing efforts to strengthen international coordination to protect the tourism sector, especially in the face of the new Omicron variant, which has obstructed travel during the past few days.

Al-Khatib is heading the Kingdom’s delegation to the first meeting of the General Assembly of the United Nations World Tourism Organization since the start of the Covid-19 crisis.

Representatives of more than 100 countries are flocking to the Spanish capital, Madrid, to attend the crucial meeting of the World Tourism Organization, the international multilateral organization tasked with supervising and coordinating efforts to develop the global tourism sector.

The meeting of the General Assembly comes at a critical stage for the World Tourism Organization and the global tourism sector, which has been greatly affected by the repercussions of the global health crisis.

The Minister of Tourism said: “The international response to the new Omicron variant showed us the importance of effective coordination of global response efforts, and the main lesson learned from the Covid-19 crisis was the necessity of coordinating international efforts and emphasizing the great role of tourism in our economies, and it falls on the shoulders of the World Tourism Organization, We, as member states, have a responsibility to accelerate the recovery process and reshape the tourism sector in preparation for the future, and we hope that the upcoming General Assembly meeting will address these points.”

And he indicated that the member states of the organization seek, during the General Assembly meeting, to shed light on the developments that these countries have witnessed since the last meeting, which was hosted in St. Petersburg, Russia in September 2019, when the Kingdom launched the electronic tourist visa program.

For her part, Assistant Minister for Tourism​Princess Haifa Al Saud indicated that the Kingdom has many ambitions in the field of tourism to have a major role in the economy, indicating that the goal is to receive 100 million international and local visitors by 2030.

She added that the list of initiatives launched by the Kingdom in cooperation with its international partners included: a multi-donor trust fund of the World Bank, the Tourism Academy of the World Tourism Organization, which aims to educate and train young people to secure their future in the tourism sector, and a regional office of the World Tourism Organization in Riyadh. To provide a centre for it in the Middle East and beyond, in addition to the Global Center for Sustainable Tourism, which was launched during the United Nations Climate Change Conference 2021.

Princess Haifa indicated that the initiative aims to bring together the public and private sectors and focus on the millions of small and medium-sized companies, which constitute the largest part of the tourism sector, stressing that everyone is aware of the magnitude of the benefits when the global tourism sector flourishes, which is the main incentive behind these launched initiatives.

Leaders MENA gathered a list of the top tourist project that is expected to be completed in 2021 and beyond.

Red Sea Project: A sanctuary offering indulgent experiences

The first hotel is expected to commence delivery on 1 July 2021, according to The Red Sea Development Company (TRSDC) CEO John Pagano.

He recently told Zawya that the site will also contain a desert resort, revealing that Phase 1 of the project, which is being built on Shurayrah Island, will feature 11 hotels and a golf course.

To date, TRSDC has allocated SAR 15 billion ($4 billion) to construction and an additional SAR 20 billion ($5.3 billion are expected to follow.

According to Pagano, another 3 new hotels will commence delivery in 2022, followed by another 13 hotels in 2023, those 16 hotels will provide around 3,000 hotel keys.

He added that two of the three hotels are already under construction and the developer is using off-site manufacturing techniques wherever possible.

According to the company’s press statements, The Red Sea Project has already passed major milestones and work is on track to welcome the first guests by the end of 2022 when the international airport and the first hotels will open. Phase one, which includes 16 hotels in total, will complete in 2023.

Upon completion in 2030, The Red Sea Project will comprise 50 resorts, offering up to 8,000 hotel rooms and more than 1,000 residential properties across 22 islands and six inland sites. The destination will also include luxury marinas, golf courses, entertainment and leisure facilities.

The project is being developed over 28,000 km2 of pristine lands and waters along Saudi Arabia’s west coast and includes a vast archipelago of more than 90 pristine islands. The destination also features sweeping desert dunes, mountain canyons, dormant volcanoes, and ancient culture and heritage sites. It is designed to include hotels, residential properties, leisure, commercial and entertainment amenities, as well as supporting infrastructure that emphasizes renewable energy and water conservation and reuse, as well as a circular waste management system to achieve zero waste to landfill.

The Red Sea Project is being created as a unique, luxury tourism destination that will embrace nature, culture and adventure, setting new standards in sustainable development and positioning Saudi Arabia on the global tourism map.

The destination is rich in culture and tradition. Visitors will have a wealth of opportunities to explore the history of the region and experience first-hand the fabled hospitality and fascinating culture of Saudi Arabia.

A special emphasis on environmental sustainability will ensure that the natural beauty of the destination will engage and excite visitors for generations to come.

 A sanctuary offering indulgent experiences, seamlessly customized to the unique needs of each visitor. Extending over 28,000 square kilometres on Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea coast, the destination will offer a uniquely diverse range of experiences, from island getaways to resort holidays, mountain retreats and desert adventures.

The 90-plus pristine islands are a haven of natural beauty, 75% of the islands will remain undeveloped and nine have been designated as areas of special conservation interest.

Moreover, the project’s inland natural features include volcanic craters and mountain ranges. It also features desert petroglyphs, archaeological treasures and heritage spice trails.

It is also near to a UNESCO World Heritage site, and Harrat Lunayyir – a volcanic field with mineral-rich soils and clays.

The old trading routes date back to the Nabatean civilization, reflecting the history of the region as part of the Incense Trail and the maritime spice route.

Another notable feature of the Red Sea Project’s location is its position on the pilgrimage route from Egypt to the Holy Cities of Makkah and Madinah. Within a walking distance, visitors can explore the ancient traders and the relics left behind.

The Nabatean city of Mada’in Saleh, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is close to the Red Sea Project, ideally placed for fascinating excursions.

Nevertheless, the Hijaz Mountains and the Red Sea are home to an abundance of flora and fauna including rare species such as dugongs, wildcats and green and hawksbill turtles. The lagoon contains 175 different species of coral and 195 species of fish, while endangered sea birds such as the sooty falcon and crab plover populate the skies.

According to the company, preservation of these habitats and species is central to the project’s development, as 75% of the islands will be left untouched with nine designated as special conservation zones.

Amaalaa: A year-round destination focusing on transformative personal journeys

Moving to the Amaala project, the first phase includes 6 hotels with 1,000 keys, as well as a huge marina and golf course, that are expected to be delivered in 2024.

According to the company’s website, the project focuses on transformative personal journeys inspired by wellness, arts, culture, and the purity of the Red Sea.

In a press statement, the company CEO Pagano revealed that they will bring the project up to speed to reach the planned milestones.

Amaala, which spans over a total of 4,155 square kilometres is envisaged to become a year-round destination. It will feature 30-35 hotels with more than 3,000 keys.

Nevertheless, Amaala will feature more than 900 residential units, including villa and apartments, as well as 200 retail establishments, fine dining, wellness and recreational facilities.

In May, the company’s CEO told Bloomberg that Amaala may raise SAR 10 billion ($2.7 billion) in 2022.

The company which is owned by the Saudi Public Investment Fund (PIF) recently announced that it has contracted several Saudi companies including Al-Tamimi Group, HASCO and Saudi Real Estate (Binyah) to do the construction works.

According to the company’s website, Amaala features an integrated approach to health and wellbeing and is centred around the three pillars of wellness and sports, arts and culture, and sea, sun and lifestyle. The 4,155-square kilometre destination inhabits the Prince Mohammad bin Salman Natural Reserve on the Saudi Arabian coast of the Red Sea.

This spectacular setting will encompass: Triple Bay, a sports and wellness community; The Coastal Development, set to offer a year-round artistic programme; and The Island, an artists’ community and hub of creativity.

Triple Bay spreads over 11.3 square kilometres, featuring 15 hotels, 529 residential units, and a total of 1,475 hospitality keys. It is set against a backdrop of imposing mountains and sparkling seas – and running alongside a coastline of beautiful coves – this seascape will offer one of the world’s most exclusive wellness retreats.

Triple Bay will be supported by world-class luxury resorts, recreational activities, a sports performance academy and active sports club facilities including equestrian, polo, camel racing, falconry, golf and tennis.

While The Coastal Development extends over 7 square kilometres, with 6 hotels, 200 residential units and a total of 925 keys.

It is designed to play host to a dynamic programme of exciting events from the global arts and cultural calendar, this coastline will be a gathering place for a community of influencers and connoisseurs,

featuring a contemporary art museum and cultural district. it is set to become the epicentre of the arts in the Middle East.

Finally, The Island has an area of 5.5 square kilometres, featuring 5 hotels and 205 units, with 400 keys in total. Once completed The Island shall become one of the world’s most exclusive enclaves offering exquisitely designed Arabic botanical gardens showcasing works of art and sculpture, with elegant private villas surrounded by breath-taking landscapes.

Anchored by an artists’ village of working studios, artisan shops, exhibit and performance facilities, The Village shall host an active arts community supported by uber-luxury beachfront resorts

and marinas transforming The Island into a stunning sea treasure.

The Rig

Saudi Arabia has unveiled plans to transform a huge offshore oil rig into an 800-room hotel and theme park.

Dubbed “THE RIG” the new tourism project was announced by the Kingdom’s Public Investment Fund (PIF).

The unusual tourism project. Inspired by offshore oil platforms, “THE RIG.” will be located in the Arabian Gulf and will span a combined total area of more than 150,000 square meters and provide a multitude of hospitality offerings, adventures, and aquatic sporting experiences.

“THE RIG.” will feature many touristic attractions, including three hotels, world-class restaurants, helipads, and a range of adventurous activities, including extreme sports, the PIF said.

The tourism and entertainment sector, is one of PIF’s key strategic sectors, as it is expected to be a significant value-add to the local economy.

Additionally, to ensure the sustainable preservation of the environment in the project’s vicinity, the project will follow leading global standards and best practices, further supporting the Kingdom’s broader efforts on environmental protection.

This project is a unique tourism attraction, expected to attract tourists from around the world while being especially popular with citizens and residents of the GCC countries in the region.

“THE RIG.” will feature several touristic attractions, including three hotels, world-class restaurants, helipads, and a range of adventurous activities, including extreme sports.

“THE RIG.” is in line with PIF’s strategy 2021-2025 to drive innovation in Saudi Arabia’s tourism and entertainment sectors, providing promising development opportunities to achieve economic diversification in line with the Saudi Vision 2030 objectives.

To support Saudi Arabia’s efforts to become a leading global tourist destination, PIF has established several major projects and companies in various regions within the country, including the Red Sea Development Company, Alsoudah Development Company and the Cruise Saudi Company.

An opening date was not disclosed, with the PIF only saying that the project was part of its 2021-2025 strategy.

The Rig is the latest tourism and entertainment project designed to reduce Saudi Arabia’s reliance on oil.

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