RIYADH — The Deputy Ministry of Tourism Princess Haifa Al-Saud, said that Saudi Arabia is preparing to receive foreign tourists starting from May 17.

Attending a television program titled “Direct Question,” she said that as many as 93 new companies have entered the Kingdoms’ tourism market and the government has provided SR120 billion as incentives for the sector to counter the effects of coronavirus, noting that the volume of domestic spending on tourism jumped 33 percent over the past summer.

Princess Haifa said that Kingdom’s tourism sector started receiving foreign tourists in 2019. “However, during the coronavirus pandemic, our first task was the safety and security of citizens and expatriates in Saudi Arabia, and we were able to provide the vaccine and reached a stage that enabled us to open the land and airports.”

Referring to Saudi Arabia’s targets for the tourism sector, Princess Haifa said: “In 2018, the contribution of the tourism sector to the gross domestic product (GDP) was 3.2 percent, which is equal to SR147 billion of the volume of spending, and in 2019 it amounted to SR169 billion, with an increase of 3.5 percent. In 2020, the volume of spending dropped to SR63 billion due to coronavirus-related procedures, resulting in a sharp drop in the number of pilgrims.”

According to Princess Haifa, the tourism sector’s contribution to GDP at the global level is 7.9 percent and it ranges between 10 and 12 percent in the countries which attract the largest number of tourists.

Saudi Arabia is expected to reach the global rates by 2030, with several major tourism projects are underway and whose results will come out in the near future.

“The volume of foreign investments in the tourism sector is SR30 billion, and a total of 50,000 new hotel rooms will be operational within two years. The first phase of the tourism strategy targets eight destinations and this will contribute to creating new jobs,” she said adding that the government’s priority is to empower Saudi men and women who possess many skills to work in tourism,” she said.

Princess Haifa said the percentage of women working in the tourism sector reached 11 percent.

“The tourism sector seeks to improve the quality of services and to overcome obstacles facing the Saudi investor, as 40 percent of complaints last summer related to prices and quality, and the percentage of complaints dropped to about 10 percent in the winter season,” she added.