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Saudi Arabia hopes $89mn will make heritage more interesting
Sharjah wants some of the tourism spotlight that's been shining previously over Dubai and now in Abu Dhabi, and they're counting on $89million to make it happen, says Kathi Everden.
May 30, 2011 10:00 by Kathi Everden
A recent announcement of a $89 million investment in tourism projects has reinforced the commitment of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA) to stimulate residents to holiday within the Kingdom.
The commission aims to double tourism revenues to $31.5 billion within five years, and also quadruple employment in the hospitality sector to reach the two million mark.
Five new regional museums will be built in areas such as Dammam, Tabuk and Asir, and additional funds will
be allocated to restore historical sites, while a country-wide boost to infrastructure will see more airports and a railway network.
Meanwhile, addressing the under-supply of hotels in the kingdom, the SCTA has targeted an increase of 85,000 hotel rooms and a similar number of furnished apartments, with a large number of regional and international groups naming Saudi Arabia as their priority in the region.
“Saudi Arabia is our number one development market in the Middle East. Riyadh is drawing both domestic and international visitors from strong business and corporate markets, for instance,” says Andrew Clough, svp, development, Hilton Worldwide, the Middle East & Asia-Pacific.
The group has signed to operate a new hotel in Al Khobar, as well as two new properties in Riyadh, where other new entrants include Kempinski, Ritz-Carlton, Movenpick, Aloft, Crowne Plaza, Four Points by Sheraton, Fairmont, a second Four Seasons and Centro by Rotana.
Rocco Forte and Dusit Thani are two newcomers for Jeddah too, while Marriott is to operate two properties in the Red Sea province of Jizan. Accor, meanwhile, has ambitions for a network of budget Ibis hotels, starting with hotels in Riyadh and Yanbu.
National companies are also investing in the hospitality sector, with the Elaf Group of Companies offering a portfolio of integrated offerings including customised packages, charter flights, conventions and meetings, visa issuance and more.
President Ziyad bin Mahfouz says the group aimed to increase its hotel interests with four additional properties by 2012, adding to its existing inventory of 2,300 rooms. “Elaf Group’s strategy is to complement the growing focus on domestic tourism by developing dedicated service and product offerings that add value to the travel experience of domestic tourists,” he says.
“With the SCTA increasingly promoting historical sites and cultural heritage, people are getting more excited to explore new destinations within the country, particularly sites that are being added to the UNESCO World Heritage List.”