Part of the plan is to train and employ a large number of young Saudis in this expanding tourism industry. In 2001, Prince Sultan bin Abdul Aziz, the Second Deputy Premier, Minister of Defense and Aviation and Inspector General, laid the foundation stone of the Prince Sultan College for Tourist and Hotel Management in its new location in Sultan City along Abha regional airport road.
Amongst the various tourism expansion projects is Al-Hada Resort, Cable Car and Al-Kar Tourist Village project in Taif Governorate, the first phase of which was launched in 2001. The SR 70 million-project, in its first phase, includes the 4,200 meters-long cable car route that connects the high altitude area of Al-Hada with the low altitude area of Al-Kar village. It includes hotels, restaurants, family parks and playgrounds.
In January, 2003, Prince Sultan bin Salman bin Abdul Aziz, Secretary General of the Tourism Higher Authority, announced the launch of a period of intensive development of tourism in the Kingdom, during which efforts would be intensified, capabilities mobilized, and tourism organizations established.
Addressing the third session of the Saudi-Lebanese Economic Forum, he emphasized that the Authority would fully cooperate with various partners in public and private sectors, and with individuals through executive plans, timed programs and other mechanisms, to develop national tourism and facilitate an environment of tourist investment.
The Prince predicted that there would be 45.3 million tourists in the year 2020, and a tourist expenditure of 80 billion riyals. He noted that this would require great investment from the private sector, to provide 50,000 hotel rooms and 74,000 housing units, and to train and qualify between 1.5 and 2.3 million Saudi nationals to work in the sector.
When, in January, 2003, Prince Sultan bin Salman bin Abdul Aziz, Secretary General of the Tourism Higher Authority, inaugurated a workshop on the preparation of natural heritage sites for tourism, the session was attended by Dr Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz bin Muammar, the Minister of Agriculture, and Dr Abdul Aziz bin Hamid Abu Zinadah, Secretary General of the National Commission for Wildlife Conservation and its Development (NCWCD). On that occasion, Prince Sultan pointed out that Saudi tourism has reached a phase of intensive development. He affirmed that the Authority would cooperate fully with partners in public and private sectors, via executive plans, staged programs and other mechanisms, in order to accomplish this goal. The Minister of Agriculture was able to say that the areas of natural forest in the Kingdom are estimated at 2.7 million hectares, and those of natural pastures at 170 million hectares, the home for some 2,000 plant species. He added that the Ministry has established many national parks at sites of natural forests in different regions of the Kingdom. For his part, Dr Abu Zinadah praised the cooperation between NCWCD and the Tourism Authority, highlighting the Commission’s contribution to tourism development.
This is a sector of the Saudi economy that will be well worth watching.