It’s notable that Saudi Arabia’s policies and strategies are radically changing since the announcement of Vision 2030. Along the past fourteen centuries, the Kingdom has welcomed pilgrims performing the Umrah and Hajj to the two holy cities; Mecca and Medina, Which made religious tourism a reason in the absence of the fame of other archaeological sites in the Kingdom.
Saudi Arabia, which has temporarily allowed British tourists only 20 years ago, is taking effective actions within its new approach to promote tourism and attract visitors for purposes other than visiting the holy places—it works on applying much easier visa rules for business travelers, pilgrims, and those visiting family members.
Aside from that, there is news on granting tourist visas for younger, unaccompanied women with a lower age of 25. By 2020, £35bn are envisaged to be spent on tourism annually targeting 30 million tourists per year by 2030 compared to 18 million tourists in 2016.
The Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage (SCTH) has provided educational programs to train and license tour guides.
The Commission is currently working on promoting the use of English in almost all places that can be visited by tourists as a first step to be followed by other languages.
SCTH sees sport as a global industry so it has reached an agreement with the General Sports Authority to launch matchless sports activities and competitions with the purpose of fostering local tourism and build training campaigns and sports resorts to host national and international sports teams.
The wealthy kingdom, who has an ambitious plan for tourism development, is planning to convert 50 red sea islands into luxury beach resorts, build an environment city near the nation’s capital, Riyadh, and attract foreign investments in tourism.
Richard Branson, founder and chairman of space tourism venture, Virgin Galactic, wrote in a blog post on his set to invest in the country’s tourism drive.
“I had high hopes for the current government in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and its leader Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and it is why I was delighted to accept two directorships in the tourism projects around the Red Sea.”
All of these are among so many other steps Saudi is taking towards diversifying its economy so as to decrease the dependency on oil and reflect thousands of years of civilization, heritage, ancient history, and time-honored traditions of the Kingdom.
Where to go in Saudi Arabia
With a land area of approximately 2mn km2, as large as Western Europe and nine times larger than the UK, Saudi Arabia has an enormous wealth of tourism assets, landscapes, and highland sceneries.
There are outstanding archaeological sites to visit like Mada’in Saleh on the model of Petra in Jordan, that was hewn from solid rock by the Nabateans. Another archaeological location is Al-Ahsa Oasis in the eastern Arabian Peninsula that was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Al-Ahsa is considered the largest oasis in the world with 2.5 million date palms.
The exceptional oasis, which dates back to the Neolithic era, includes gardens, canals, springs, wells, a drainage lake, historical buildings, urban fabric, archaeological sites, historic fortresses, and mosques.
Recreation-seekers can also visit Wadi Lajab; a breathtaking valley that is ideal for rowing and swimming.
Ar-Rub Al-Khali (the empty quarter desert), is a spectacular destination for camping and Safari and a good opportunity to witness camel racing, which is a renowned legacy among the area’s ancient tribes.
Backpacking amateurs and adventures can find their calling in Ha’il desert city, including “I Found A Taste of the Past” stunning museum, King Fahd Mosque, Airef Castle, Al Qishlah Fort, as well as the rock drawings and inscriptions telling a great history.
Nature, wildlife, and marine life lovers would enjoy hitting Farasan Island; a marvelous island that is blessed with a year-round moderate climate and surrounded by water on all sides where one can entertain diving and watching coral reef.
Museum goers can choose among a lot of museums around the Kingdom, the most renowned of which is the National museum.
For years, Abha city has assumed a central place with its mild climate, unique architecture, mud and stone houses, the old Village known as Al Muftaha, Shada Palace, Wadi Mahala, Jabal Al-Sooda (the highest peak in the Kingdom), Asir National Park, and Al-Habala Valley surrounded by the largest mountain range in the Arabian Peninsula; Sarawat Mountains.
Prince Sultan bin Salman, the president of SCTH, who do believe that Saudi Arabia has a rich heritage declared: The story of our national heritage is part of what Saudi Arabia is, especially today as we go toward the future with big steps.
I believe that we will be stronger, better and more successful people if we understand and believe that we came from a great land,”.
All of what we have mentioned here and what the Saudi government holds for the coming years are good reasons to say that Saudi Arabia will be one of the most significant holiday hotspots in the foreseeable future.
Already, Saudi Vision 2030 has taken into account that tourism is so promising sector, which would assist with job creation, boost the GDP, and offer better investment opportunities.