Saudi Arabia plans to invest more than $1 trillion in the tourism sector over the next 10 years, said Ahmed Al Khateeb, the Minister of Tourism.
The world's largest oil exporter is also one of the biggest investors in tourism, which was hit hard by the travel restrictions during the Covid-19 pandemic, Mr Al Khateeb told a panel called the Future of Tourism at the fifth Future Investment Initiative on Tuesday.
"Tourism and travel were the most affected by the Covid-19 pandemic among the sectors of the global economy, but we are on the path to a return to recovery, which requires international co-operation to enhance the recovery phase," he said.
The kingdom believes that the recovery of the global economy depends on the recovery of the tourism sector, "so we need to work together to reactivate tourism according to effective principles of work, to achieve common goals", Mr Al Khateeb said.
Investment in the kingdom's tourism sector is one of the pillars of the Saudi Vision 2030 transformation initiative that seeks to diversify the economy and reduce its reliance on oil. Saudi Arabia aims to increase the contribution of the tourism sector to its economy to more than 10 per cent of gross domestic product by 2030 from about 3 per cent.
Under the Vision 2030 plan the kingdom seeks to attract 100 million local and international visitors annually by 2030, with the tourism sector generating an additional one million jobs, boosting total employment in the industry to 1.6 million jobs.
The tourism sector is expected to provide 260,000 jobs over the next three years, Mr Al Khateeb said.
The minister urged countries to work together at large, including governments and the private sector, developed and developing nations, "to strengthen tourism organisations and increase representation in forums like the G20", which Saudi Arabia hosted last year, to deliver "the future for tourism that we all want and need".
Arnold Donald, the chief executive of Carnival Corporation and Chairman of the World Travel and Tourism Council, said the tourism industry “needs the collaboration between governments and the private sector" to harmonise and provide "frictionless travel", as well as equal distribution of vaccinations around the world.
“First, we have to accept the vaccinations at different places to make it frictionless travel, and secondly, vaccine equity, so that means certain people can be vaccinated as was stated in the opening keynote,” he told the panel.