Construction

GCC tourism sector rapidly developing to meet growing demand – report

$11.6 billion worth of tourism projects in the pipeline for KSA

With Saudi Arabia looking to attract more international and GCC tourists, the Kingdom has invested more than $11.6 billion into a pipeline of tourism projects, a report has found.

In February 2019, the Kingdom unveiled a raft of major tourism initiatives, including the development of a resort and nature reserve in the ancient city of Al-Ula, in a bid to make it a global tourist destination. Furthermore, in order to meet the objectives of Saudi Vision 2030, the country is looking to invest up to $64 billion to develop cultural, leisure and entertainment projects, a report from Orient Planet Research said.

It added that the GCC is moving towards becoming a world-class global tourism hub, backed by competitive advantages that will attract international travellers looking for new experiences. It highlighted that the region recorded 1.4 billion international tourist arrivals in 2018, a 6% increase from the previous year, confirming the successful efforts of the UAE, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Oman in establishing a greater presence on the regional and global tourism map.

As per the report, the UAE receives more than 10 million visitors annually, with Abu Dhabi and Dubai amongst the most attractive places to visit for tourists, while Sharjah is showing a rapid increase in tourist appeal, having seen 1.7 million visitors in 2017.

Conversely, many tourists from the region spend more time travelling to popular destinations worldwide, it said, pointing out that Arab airline companies have significantly contributed to travel and tourism internationally by connecting the region to various global destinations.

“The regional tourism sector is witnessing rapid development to meet the growing demand of international travellers. Tourism entities have been developing a wide range of options that cater to various types of visitors. Some of these activities include health tourism, cultural events, entertainment, heritage, eco-tourism, music festivals, which reflect the richness of the Arabian Gulf’s natural, historical, and cultural heritage,” said Nidal Abou Zaki, managing director, Orient Planet Group.

“GCC countries have been continuously promoting attractive tourism elements in line with their ambitious drive to diversify the economy, which is evident in the results of our report. It confirms the success of their efforts to bring the tourism sector to a new level of growth and competitiveness,” he said.

GCC countries have embarked on strategic plans to diversify their touristic offerings and have initiated huge investments during the last 10 years to improve, expand and modernise their infrastructure, the report added.

As per the Oman Ministry of Tourism’s Tourism Strategy 2040, the Sultanate intends to attract 11.7 million travellers by 2040, with 5 million of them intended to be leisure and business visitors. The country is also exploring its potential in providing services in the meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions (MICE) sector, given that it enjoys direct connections with some of the world’s leading destinations via the new Muscat International Airport.

Meanwhile, Bahrain is expected to complete its new international exhibition centre in Sakhir by 2021, which will be 10 times bigger than its present size once finished. Kuwait as well is on track with its key tourism initiatives led by the ongoing development of five islands, which have an investment value of up to $160 billion. Investments focused on travel and tourism are expected to reach up to $1 billion by 2027, the World Travel and Tourism Council has revealed.

The report further emphasised the need to strengthen regulatory and legal frameworks governing the tourism industry to drive the growth of this vital sector as an essential source of growth and economic diversification, and a key pillar for improving the quality of life in the region.

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