Interview: Prince Sultan bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud
What are priorities for the SCTH’s capital allocation?
PRINCE SULTAN BIN SALMAN BIN ABDULAZIZ AL SAUD: The SCTH plans to incentivise the private sector to spend an additional SR171.5bn ($45.7bn) on the sector in Saudi Arabia. The main objectives are to establish and develop new destinations that target increasing tourism demand, to encourage investment – both local and international – in the private sector and to operate these new destinations. We aim to develop a variety of facilities in four new destinations: Okaz City in Taif, Farasan Islands in Jizan, and Ras Al Abyyad and Al Ula, both in the Medina region. Private sector capital will develop accommodation, recreation, edutainment and suitable commercial facilities. The public sector, through the budget allocated in the National Transformation Program (NTP) 2020, will cover infrastructure investments, as well as some facilities and attractions to show the government’s commitment to the development of those destinations.
What incentives are offered to the private sector?
PRINCE SULTAN: Reforms have been created to stimulate investment, increase and diversify programmes and activities, and enhance providers and their capabilities. In March 2017 the Ministry of Finance allocated SR3bn ($799.8m) to the sector as part of the NTP 2020. There is also the Kafalah programme, which guarantees tourism projects will receive loans up to SR1.5bn ($399.9m). Furthermore, ventures with expected investment of more than SR20m ($5.3m) were granted an extension of the land lease period to 50 years instead of the original 15 or 20. Lastly, the Tourism Law – which aims to improve the quality of sector-related activities, services and professions – notably improved licensing and classification, especially in the accommodation segment.
How is domestic human capital being developed?
PRINCE SULTAN: The NTP aims to increase the number of direct jobs in the sector from 994,000 in 2017 to 1.2m by 2020. The SCTH has outlined priorities and recommended actions for stakeholders to shape the future of tourism training. In this context the SCTH has identified seven key goals; the most important include: effectively implementing an operational framework that enables workforce development; facilitating career development, job security and training; and addressing the low number of applicants, resulting from a lack of awareness and attractiveness of the sector.
Our response has been comprehensive: we emphasise professional standards and training packages developed by specialised international firms; we offer localisation plans for the tourism and antiquities sectors in collaboration with the Ministry of Labour and Social Development, and other partners; and there are over 50 programmes preparing students for tourism jobs. These degrees are offered by 26 institutions across 16 cities. They are currently training more than 11,000 students and producing just under 2500 graduates per year for the labour market, and we aim to gradually increase this.
How is the country working to attract increasing numbers of Hajj and Umrah visitors?
PRINCE SULTAN: The Saudi Arabia: Destination of all Muslims initiative aims to help realise Vision 2030 by doubling the number of Umrah and Hajj seekers by 2030. Our main goal is to enrich visitors’ spiritual journeys and cultural experiences. Through the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques Cultural Heritage programme and the Tourism After Umrah programme, the SCTH is working to rehabilitate Islamic historical sites, revive the cultural heritage brand of the two holy cities, develop museums and UNESCO World Heritage sites, protect and preserve national antiquities, and rejuvenate historical and Islamic tracks. We are ensuring we do so sustainably. Multiple support projects are under way, such as airport modernisation and expansion; new accommodation facilities, tour operators and entertainment cities; and the transport network to allow access for tourists, for instance via the Makkah Metro Project.
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