Cairo: Saudi Arabia plans to build up to 500,000 more hotel rooms as the kingdom seeks to diversify its oil-dependent economy, Saudi Tourism Minister Ahmad Al Khatib has disclosed.
The new facilities will be constructed by the government in several parts of the kingdom, including the futuristic mega-project Neom.
“We are building an additional 400,000 to 500,000 new key rooms... And the private sector will put more rooms,” the official said.
Addressing a World Tourism Day conference in Riyadh, Al Khatib said the kingdom has created 200,000 tourism jobs in the past four years and needs to create 800,000 more jobs.
“In Saudi Arabia only, we need to create 1 million jobs in the next 10 years. We have already created about 200,00.”
Al Khatib also expressed pride as Saudi Arabia is hosting the tourism event, attended by around 500 officials and experts in the industry from 120 countries. The World Tourism Day 2023 motto is “Tourism Green and Investments”.
Saudi Arabia aims to receive 25 million foreign tourists this year.
In recent years, the kingdom has offered a set of facilities designed to draw more foreign tourists to the country. They include the issuance of tourist visas on arrival or online for citizens of several nationalities.
In July, Saudi Arabia launched a business visit electronic visa, dubbed the “visiting investor visa”, aimed to facilitate a foreigner’s trip to the kingdom to explore investment opportunities there.
Saudi Arabia, Islam’s birthplace, has in recent months introduced a slew of facilities for Muslims wishing to come to the country to perform Umrah or lesser pilgrimage.
Muslims holding different types of entry visas such as the personal, visit and tourism visas are allowed to undertake Umrah and visit Al Rawda Al Sharifa, where the tomb of the Prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him) is located in the Prophet’s Mosque in Medina.
Saudi citizens can apply for visas inviting their friends abroad to visit the kingdom and undertake Umrah.
Saudi Arabia has also issued a stopover transit visa, allowing the holder to perform Umrah, visit the Prophet’s Mosque and attend different events across the kingdom. The four-day transit visa is valid for 90 days.