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ITB Berlin News 2020 - #4

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Saudi Arabia ggrowth in tourI EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW IThe Kingdom is laying the grountourism in the coming years andand provision for visitors develoSaudi Arabia is gearing up for its tourist industry toexpand after new visa rules made it easier for travellersfrom dozens of countries to visit. Fahd Hamidaddin,Chief of Investment, Strategy and Marketing at the SaudiCommission for Tourism and National Heritage, spoketo ITB Berlin News about the key goals of Saudi Arabia'sopening up to global tourism.Fahd HamidaddinChief of Investment,Strategy and Marketing,SCTHDiving on Red Sea reefs in Saudi Arabia - now a big draw card for the KingdomFor the first time, Saudi Arabiahas opened to tourists fromacross the world. Our tourismsector represents significant newopportunities: for businesses andinvestors, for local communities,and for the world’s tourists.As a major driver of economicgrowth and social opportunities,our goal is to create sustainableemployment for Saudis, boostforeign investment and ultimately,in line with Vision 2030, diversifyour economy away from oil.Our efforts and partnershipswill reflect Saudi Arabia’s workthis year when we host the G20Summit in November. One focus ofthe Kingdom’s G20 presidency in© VisitsaudiSINCESEPTEMBER 2019,VISITORS FROM49 COUNTRIESHAVE BEENABLE TO APPLYFOR E-VISASAND VISAS ONARRIVAL.2020 will be tourism as a meansof sustainable socioeconomicdevelopment, while addressingthe environmental, social andeconomic impact of tourism.Why the big change in policy?Last year marked an historicmilestone for Saudi Arabia as thecountry opened to internationaltourists. Since September 2019,visitors from 49 countries havebeen able to apply for e-visas andvisas on arrival. We have sinceexpanded our visa-on-arrival toinclude anyone with a valid US, UKor Schengen visa as we work tomake it easy for the world’s touriststo visit Saudi Arabia.It is well known that Saudi Arabiais undertaking major economic16 • ITB BERLIN NEWS • THURSDAY 26 TH MARCH

ets ready forist numbersdwork for a massive increase indecades, with red tape slashedping fastand social changes, and opening doorsto international tourists is a policychange which demonstrates SaudiArabia’s increasingly global outlook. Inline with Vision 2030, Saudi Arabia isdeveloping its tourism offering to buildbridges between cultures and createproductive economic links, develop asignificant new sector and increaseworkforce participation for women andyoung people.As the Chief of Investment, Strategyand Marketing at the Saudi Commissionfor Tourism and National Heritage, I amproud to say that opening the countryto international tourism is one of themost significant Vision 2030 initiatives.Will Germany and in broader terms,Europe be an important market forSaudi tourism?We predict China, the United States,Germany and United Kingdom will beamongst Saudi Arabia’s top sourcemarkets for inbound tourism. As anation of explorers, which I understandthe Germans to be, many will besurprised and delighted by ourhospitality, unique culture, diverselandscapes and deep history. We areexcited to offer a glimpse into thecountry’s ancient heritage and deeprootedculture, breathtaking outdooractivities, local handicrafts anddelicious food.Sustainability is a buzz word we heara lot, but what is Saudi Arabia actuallydoing to protect the environment asyou develop your tourism sector?We have a unique challenge in buildinga tourism industry from scratch, butit is also a great opportunity to dothings right. One of my key focuseswhen Saudi Arabia hosts the G20will be the impact of tourism on theenvironment, economy, and the socioculturalaspects on global and localcommunities.Preservation of our natural sites hasbeen the bedrock of the infrastructureplans – we are committed to openingup to the world while protecting ournatural treasures such as the coralreefs of the Red Sea and our fiveUNESCO World Heritage sites.In key initiatives, we are advancingresponsible and sustainabletourism through specific fundingand partnerships. For example, inAlUla, where we’re opening the siteto visitors gradually, we’re investingm to save the endangered ArabianWE ARECOMMITTED TOOPENING UP TOTHE WORLD WHILEPROTECTINGOUR NATURALTREASURES SUCHAS THE CORALREEFS OF THE REDSEA AND OUR FIVEUNESCO WORLDHERITAGE SITESleopard. In Amaala, a mega projectin the northwest coastline, we’repartnering with the Prince Albert IIof Monaco Foundation to undertakeconservation initiatives and marine liferesearch, and at the Red Sea project,all initiatives must ensure bio-diversitypreservationSAUDI MAKES TOURISMINVESTMENTSSaudi Arabia is highlighting a series of development projectsto enhance the country's tourism sector. These include:• The restoration and preservation of Saudi Arabia's uniqueheritage attractions, including the UNESCO World HeritageSite at Ad Diriyah, the AlUla archaeological site and theJeddah Historical District.• Infrastructure such as hotels and improved transport linksclose to some of the Kingdom’s natural attractions, whichspan a range of topographies, from the mountains of Abhato the beaches of the Red Sea to the shifting sands of theEmpty Quarter.• New attractions under development include the futuristiccity of Neom, the Qiddiya entertainment city near Riyadh andluxury destinations beside the Red Sea© Ryan McMinds © The Royal Commission for AlUlaAlUla archaeological siteWTTC UNDERPINS PLANSFOR SAUDI TOURISMEXPANSIONThe World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) has partneredwith the Saudi Commission for Tourism and NationalHeritage to make Saudi Arabia a "top five" inbounddestination, with 100 million international and domesticvisits, by 2030. The strategic partnership will harness thepower and expertise of WTTC’s global membership, worldclass events and experience in research and strategic policywork to support Saudi Arabia’s ambitious goals and Vision2030 plan. Speaking in Riyadh at the launch of Saudi’s newtourism visa on World Tourism Day last year, Gloria Guevara,President & CEO of WTTC said “I congratulate Saudi Arabiaon its decision to open the country to tourists from acrossthe world and look forward to working together to makeSaudi Arabia a must visit destination the world over. Todayhistory is being written!"Diving on Red Sea reefs in Saudi Arabia - now a big draw card for the KingdomITB BERLIN NEWS • THURSDAY 26 TH MARCH 2020 • 17

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