Tourism to account for 5% of Saudi Arabia’s GDP by 2021

World Travel and Tourism Council bullish on the kingdom’s tourism sector following recent reforms

RAK,  UNITED ARAB EMIRATES , OCTOBER 2 – 2019 :- Gloria Guevara , President and CEO of World Travel & Tourism Council during the interview at the Al Hamra International convention center in Ras Al Khaimah. ( Pawan Singh / The National ) For Business. Story by Fareed
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Tourism will grow in Saudi Arabia to account for 5 per cent of the kingdom's gross domestic product (GDP) by 2021 on the back of recent government initiatives that have made it easier for people to visit the country, the president and chief executive of World Travel and Tourism Council said.

In 2018, travel and tourism, a key component of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 programme, accounted 3 per cent of Saudi Arabia’s economic output. The kingdom aims to increase that to 10 per cent by 2030.

"We will see an interesting growth based on changes they made on visas ... and millions of new jobs will be created," Gloria Guevara told The National on the sidelines of the Middle East and North Africa Leaders Forum in Ras Al Khaimah on Wednesday.

The increase in visitors will come as the kingdom builds major new developments such as the futuristic Neom city, the Red Sea project, entertainment city Qiddiyah, Amaala and Ad Diriyah. This comes as the kingdom’s non-oil gross domestic product grew 2.9 per cent year-on-year in the second quarter, the fastest pace since the fourth quarter of 2015, when Riyadh started putting fiscal consolidation measures in place to counter an oil price slump that began in the middle of 2014.

Last month, Saudi Arabia opened its doors to tourists from all across the world by announcing a new regime allowing visa-free travel for tourists visiting the country from 49 countries. Visas are now available online, on arrival or at Saudi diplomatic missions for about $120 (Dh440), including a health insurance fee.

The country also announced agreements with regional and international investors worth 100 billion Saudi riyals (Dh99.2bn) to develop the tourism sector in the Kingdom.

“They need to work on the products. For instance, a traveller from Europe is looking for something different than a traveller from the US or from Australia. An adventure traveller is looking for something different than a cultural traveller,” Ms Guevara said.

At the same event, Princess Haifa Mohammed Al Saud, vice-president of strategy and planning for the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage, said the kingdom has already received 5,000 applications for visas in less than a week since the new reforms were announced.

“The new tourism initiatives are positive not only for us but for the entire region," Princess Haifa said.