JEDDAH — The Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA) does not target foreign tourists and wants to focus on internal tourists, said Mohammad Al-Amri, Executive Manager of SCTA, in an answer to Saudi Gazette's question about their role in easing visas for non-Muslim tourists.
Al-Amri added that they want to focus on Saudi tourists as they are the target of many Arab and foreign countries. SCTA programs hope to attract Saudis to spend some of their vacations and breaks in the country.
Al-Amri was speaking at a press conference held here at JCCI Monday to announce the upcoming “Hotel Show” that will take place here on Nov. 17-19.
He said the tourism sector is expected to offer 1.1 million direct and indirect jobs by 2016, with a growth of 25 percent. Tourism, he further said, provides a vast number of investment opportunities and its development should be an imitative of the private sector and not from the government.
Moreover, Al-Amri said they have started their field inspection tours in cooperation with the municipalities, civil defense and other government bodies to close down any violating hotel or furnished apartment. “We were surprised to know that some places are operating without a license,” he added.
Their new category system is based on giving value points to each hotel or furnished apartment based on the quality of their services and decor along with other elements that add value to the establishment. The evaluation process is done once a year and therefore investors are now working hard to get more points, he noted, forecasting that Jeddah will need 6,000 to 7,000 rooms in the coming years to meet the demand.
SCTA has lowered the bank insurance for tourisms investments from 2 million to be between 25,000 and 100,000. The move has attracted many Saudis to invest in this sector, Al-Amri said. New will be given to suite units and agricultural furnished housing units.
He noted that SCTA has started to give license to people who want to work as tourist guides. This permission can be given to any Saudi who is above 21, a high school graduate and also knows information about the area he wants to work as guide. “We already gave licenses to people of different professions — some are judges, sheikhs, doctors, engineers, among others,” he added.
The Hotel Show will offer a chance for investors, contractors and businessmen on one side and SCTA on the other side, to be able to discuss the future of this sector in the Kingdom, said Elie Rizk, CEO of the organizing company M.I.C.E Arabia Group.
The Kingdom needs more international exhibition in this sector to be able to provide investment opportunities, he added, saying “what this sector needs is government support and citizens understanding of its importance. This is what happened in Dubai 10 years back and this is what made it distinguished now. Kingdom is now approaching (the level) due to the construction and development boom.”
Barth de Ridder, DMG director of Conferences and Training in the Middle East, said the Kingdom will receive up to 88 million visitors by 2020, while the number of hotel employees will increase from 18,600 to 2.3 million by 2020.
The exhibition will have workshops, seminars and features on the side of it, said Mike Allsop, senior vice president of DMG Events, a co-organizer.