Riyadh: Health tourism is gaining prominence and becoming more popular in the country, Saudi Arabia's Supreme Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA), said in a recent report.

"Health and medical tourism achieved more than 800 million Saudi riyals (Dh783 million) out of the total spending by both citizens and expatriates for domestic tourism in 2007. At the same time, foreign tourists spent over 400 million riyals to undergo treatment in the Kingdom during the period," said the latest report by SCTA.

Medical Tourism is a combination of wellness and health care coupled with leisure and relaxation, which is aimed at rejuvenating a person mentally, physically and emotionally, drawing away from his daily routine to a relaxed environment in an exotic location.

The SCTA report showed that there are several medical firms and centres to promote medical tourism in the Kingdom, mainly in Riyadh and Jeddah.

These included the Prince Sultan City for Humanitarian Services, Dr Sulaiman Al Habeeb Center, Kingdom Hospital, Dallah Hospital, Ibn Rushd Hospital, Saudi German Hospital, Qari Medical Center for Blood Diseases and Tumours, Dr Abdul Rahman Baksh Hospitals, and Eid Clinic.

There are several other clinics springing up in various regions of the Kingdom. Abdul Rahman Al Jassas, SCTA's executive director for tourism development in the Riyadh region, said that Saudi Arabia is also making giant strides in business and conference tourism.

"Riyadh hosted more than 50 per cent of these types of tourism activities Kingdom-wide during the last year," he said while attributing this to vast infrastructure facilities to host such event, such as big conference halls and exhibition venues in Riyadh.

In a press statement, Al Jassas said that Riyadh will witness the opening of a number of hotels over the next two years, thus increasing the capacity to accommodate more tourists.

"There will be more participation of the younger generation, especially students and volunteers in event management in Riyadh in future.

This will be a big boost for developing their qualities for voluntary work and service to the society," he said.

In another development, SCTA and the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice signed a cooperation agreement for the development of domestic tourism. Under the agreement, both organisations will increase cooperation.

Abdul Aziz Al Homain, president of the Commission, said that the Commission will strive to promote the efforts being made by SCTA to develop domestic tourism and encourage citizens to promote family tourism in various parts of the Kingdom.