Saudi Vision 2030 aims to double hotel sector opportunities
RIYADH: The much-applauded Saudi Vision 2030, which has captured world attention, lends strong support to the hotel and tourism sector as a significant source of revenue, while promising job opportunities in a series of sweeping economic reforms.
The Kingdom has had plans in place to more than double its number of hotel rooms as part of its Vision 2030, which will go a long way in contributing to the diversification of Saudi economy away from oil.
This was disclosed by Muin Serhan, a hospitality industry veteran, in an interview here. Serhan, who thanked Mohammed bin Salman, deputy crown prince and minister of defense, for unveiling Vision 2030, spoke about its impact in detail on the hospitality industry.
Serhan, currently serving as general manager of Riyadh Marriott Hotel as well as Marriott Executive Apartments, said the hospitality sector is witnessing phenomenal growth with tourist accommodations gaining remarkable leaps.
Serhan, an experienced hotelier, has posted a long banner with the Vision 2030 logo on top of the front walls of the local Marriott Hotel here. He said: “The Marriott family promotes and expresses solidarity with plans of Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in a manner, which has no parallel in the hospitality industry.”
The Riyadh Marriott Hotel located at the city center combines style and substance, with 5-star accommodations and the unparalleled level of service.
Referring to the Saudi hospitality sector that has been tossed into sky because of Vision 2030, Serhan said the vision program states plans to “create attractions that are of the highest international standards, improve Saudi visa issuance procedure, and develop rare historical and heritage sites.”
On top of this, the Kingdom’s strategic location serves as a hub connecting three continents and a religious center hosting the two holy cities of Makkah and Madinah that accommodate an average of up to 18 million visitors annually.
To this end, he recalled the remarks made by Deputy Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, who said in a television interview recently that the Kingdom is “prepared to receive 30 million people who are expected to come for Umrah by 2030, and this influx will be supported by new transportation projects, including Jeddah’s new airport, Taif’s airport, the Haramain Train, and the Makkah Metro.”
In fact, Vision 2030 aims to raise non-oil revenue to $160 billion by 2020 from $43.5 billion last year.
Spelling out the features of the growing hospitality sector within the framework of Vision 2030, Serhan said: “Tourism will be an important component in boosting non-oil revenue.”
He said the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage (SCTNH) has also changed the people’s perception on tourism and heritage and the citizens have begun pressing and urging the commission to complete its regulations and partnerships, which makes tourism one of the major themes of Vision 2030.
In order to realize the vision, the SCTNH, is executing innovative ideas to further promote tourism in the Kingdom and one of them is the Umrah Plus Program, which was launched recently in compliance with Vision 2030 provisions.
The Umrah Plus Program, which will cost 25 percent more than the regular Umrah program, will earn around SR150 million during the first phase of its implementation alone, according to the program supervisors and policy planners.
Interestingly, Makkah is witnessing a steady growth in Umrah Plus pilgrims from outside Saudi Arabia. The program also includes tourist trips, besides the Umrah rituals. The commission is also working on various hospitality and tourism projects.
Umrah and tourism specialists have been asked to prepare religious monuments and sites for visitors, especially since some of these are located in rugged mountainous areas that might be dangerous to inexperienced visitors.