RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s capital is all set to host the second Saudi Tourism Forum as the country strives for 100 million tourists annually by 2030.
The event, which will take place at the Riyadh International Convention and Exhibition Center on Jan. 22-24, aims to strengthen collaboration among all stakeholders within the Saudi tourism sector and enhance awareness regarding investment and development opportunities in the industry.
The forum will serve as a platform to foster cooperation and facilitate partnerships among key industry players.
Hosted by the Saudi Tourism Ministry in collaboration with the Saudi Tourism Authority, Tourism Development Fund, and the Red Sea Authority, the forum takes place at a pivotal juncture as the Kingdom undergoes a remarkable transformation in the sector.
In a statement to the Saudi Press Agency, Tourism Development Fund CEO Qusai Al-Fakhri said: “Our participation in the Saudi Tourism Forum is an opportunity to confirm our commitment to supporting efforts to develop the tourism sector in the Kingdom and to enable tourism projects, in addition to reviewing opportunities for local investors and attracting international investments to achieve leadership and efficiency.”
With the nation documenting a striking 156 percent increase in the number of tourists arriving in 2023 compared to 2019, a recent UN World Tourism Barometer report denotes that Saudi Arabia’s great success is paving the way for the Middle East to lead the global recovery of tourism.
The region stood out globally as it surpassed pre-pandemic levels of growth, drawing in 122 percent more tourists in 2023 compared to 2019, as highlighted in the report.
According to the World Tourism Organization, Saudi Arabia was the most visited country by travelers in the Arab world in 2022, with the area welcoming 18 million passengers, compared to 14.8 million traveling to the UAE.
In September 2019, Saudi Arabia opened its doors to tourists for the first time with the launch of tourism visas. Visitors flocked from around the globe to explore Saudi Arabia’s ancient history and striking landscapes spanning from six UNESCO World Heritage Sites to an array of wide-ranging events, new hotels and museums as well as natural landscapes.
The chief special adviser to the Saudi tourism minister, Gloria Guevara, told Arab News on the sidelines of the 7th Future Investment Forum that Saudi Arabia is starting a pivotal journey and shifting a significant part of its economy to tourism, investing $800 billion into its effort, adding that “it’s almost like starting with a blank sheet of paper.”
“With major injections of funds and major redirection, and I think when you start something like that, you are in a better position to say how can we do this well,” she affirmed, stressing the importance of decoupling the sector’s growth from its environmental impact.
The significance of addressing the environmental implications of the sector was further underscored by a first-of-its-kind report titled “The Environmental Impact of Global Tourism,” which was jointly presented by Saudi Tourism Minister Ahmed Al-Khateeb and Julia Simpson, president of the World Tourism and Travel Council, during the Future Investment Initiative held in Riyadh in October 2023.
The document evaluates the environmental impact of travel and tourism in 185 countries, spanning 2010 and 2021, with 2019 serving as a benchmark for insights into the sector’s sustainability.
It further shows that the Kingdom’s tourism industry is making significant strides, contributing 6.4 percent to the annual gross domestic product while emitting only 3.3 percent of global greenhouse gases.
The forum will hold a series of panel discussions to address the sector’s environmental impact, with talks entitled “Ecotourism: Components and Opportunities” and “Components of Successful Ecotourism.”
The event will also see several workshops hosted by the UNWTO and the Ministry of Tourism, as well as several other players in the sector, to shed light on catalyzing investments in the industry and building a well-equipped workforce for hospitality in the Kingdom.
Hamza Nasser, chairman of the Organizing Committee, said: “On behalf of the organizing committee, we warmly welcome you to the Saudi Tourism Forum 2024. Based on the success of the previous edition, it has already become a forum to develop relationships and business and exchange new knowledge and inspire development.”
He added: “We very much look forward to seeing you in Riyadh, to explore investment opportunities and network with diverse suppliers and service providers in the tourism sector taking advantage of networking opportunities to develop partnerships.”