Saudi Arabia has started a fund with an initial capital of $4 billion to develop its tourism industry as the oil-rich kingdom seeks to diversify its economy and attract more foreign travellers.
The Tourism Development Fund will launch a range of equity and debt investment vehicles and has $45bn in memorandum of understandings signed with private banks, according to a statement. “Funding will be deployed to support mixed-use destinations, to address gaps in the tourism value chain, and to enable technologically-enhanced tourism,” it said.
Saudi Arabia, which last year dropped its strict dress code for foreign women, is seeking to attract holidaymakers and the spending that could help develop the kingdom’s economy away from its reliance on oil.
The country expects the tourism industry to contribute more than 10 percent of its annual GDP and create more than one million jobs by 2030.
The launch is part of the first phase of the National Tourism Strategy, which focuses on developing and enhancing 38 sites across seven destinations by 2022.
Further discussions are underway with investment banks to create additional investment funds in the future.
Fund board members are: Princess Haifa Mohammed Al Saud, vice minister of strategy and investment at the Saudi Ministry of Tourism; Ihsan Bafakih, governor of the Real Estate General Authority; Stephen Groff, governor of the National Development Fund; Mohammed Omran Al Omran, member of Saudi British Bank board; and Mohammed Al-Hokal, member National Commercial Bank board.
Tourism is one of the main pillars of Saudi economic reforms aimed at weaning the country off its dependence on oil revenue (https://www.arabnews.com/node/1693306/saudi-arabia).
Saudi Arabia last year opened up to international tourists, launching a new visa regime while appealing to foreign companies to invest in the sector, which it hopes will contribute more than 10% of gross domestic product by 2030, up from 3% currently.
Analysts predict a severe economic contraction in Saudi Arabia this year, hit by the economic impact of measures to contain the COVID-19 pandemic and by a sharp drop in oil revenue because of low crude prices.
Alessandra Quarta Conte