Saudi Arabia and Oman will lead the GCC’s multibillion dollar investments in cultural tourism with a series of projects to develop new world-class cultural attractions, according to a report published ahead of Arabian Travel Market (ATM), taking place from April 24-27, 2017 at Dubai World Trade Centre.

According to the research, compiled by Colliers International, Saudi Arabia is ready to invest up to $2 billion, one of the highest commitments of any government to cultural tourism in the region, with a number of projects and targets set out under Saudi Vision 2030.

Under the vision, by the year 2030, Saudi Arabia will increase the number of public and private museums from 155 to 241, increase the number of Unesco World Heritage Sites from four to 10, and increase the number of archaeological sites suitable to visit from 75 to 155. In addition, the kingdom will increase the number of archaeological heritage sites from 10 to 28 and increase the number of activities and cultural events from 190 currently to 400 annually.

In the UAE, Saadiyat Island, already gaining popularity with tourists to the UAE thanks to its collection of world-class hotels, beaches and golf facilities, will receive a further boost with regional and international visitors when the first of its highly-anticipated museums opens later this year. By 2020, the island will be home to Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, Louvre Abu Dhabi and the Zaha Hadid designed, Zayed National Museum.

In Dubai, the $300 million Dubai Opera launched in 2016, with the first shows including Les Miserables and Cats. Dubai has also seen an increase of 127 per cent in the number of visitors to its most popular museums and galleries, taking the total number of visitors to just five of the emirate’s museums to 1.75 million in 2015. These numbers will receive a further boost over the coming 24 months with the opening of the Museum of The Future in 2017 and Mohammad Bin Rashid Library, in 2018.