Ripe for tourism, Al-Hasa eyes private sector’s help

ripe-for-tourism-al-hasa-eyes-private-sector’s-helpAL-HASA: The Kingdom’s top tourism official said Al-Hasa has all the ingredients to become a vacation hot spot and said the government was encouraging private sector investment to make it a reality. “We are in the process of streamlining procedures to make it easier for the private sector to take an active part in the building of Saudi Arabia’s tourism industry,” said Prince Sultan bin Salman, chairman of the Supreme Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA). “Now is the time to invest in this hugely important sector.” The prince made the remarks at the opening of the Al-Hasa Investment Forum, which started Tuesday at Al-Hasa Inter Continental Hotel. He said Al-Hasa’s heritage as a trade center made it a natural for tourism development.

“It has everything that a tourist looks for, traditional markets, beautiful weather, excellent people and historic forts,” the prince said. “Al-Hasa has a special place in the hearts of all Saudis.” Prince Sultan said the domestic tourism market was growing and that the government was encouraging such development, but he said that schools, colleges and universities should be promoting a culture of tourism for many people new to the idea. “This is the need of the hour,” the prince said. “We have identified a number of projects to attract local tourists. However, just by creating fabulous projects, people will not come in. We will have to create a culture of tourism.” He emphasized the economic importance of the domestic tourism market, both as a creator of jobs and as a means to keep riyals pulsing through the economy rather than being spent overseas.

“Now is the time to invest in this hugely important sector,” the prince said. “We should consider this to be our national duty. If we are able to create a huge tourism infrastructure then this has the potential to generate thousands of jobs for young Saudis — especially in the non metropolitan areas. Millions of riyals are spent by Saudis on vacations abroad. We want to tap into this market and create excellent tourist infrastructure to appeal to our people.” Saleh Hassan Al-Afaleq, president of the Al-Hasa Chamber, said development was booming on several fronts and noted a new economic city soon will be built in the region, giving business activity a much-needed boost.

The forum was organized by Al-Eqtisadiah newspaper in cooperation with Al-Hasa Chamber. Hundreds of businessmen, important ministers and tribal elders attended the opening session. Eastern Province Gov. Prince Muhammad bin Fahd opened the forum in the presence of Al-Hasa Gov. Prince Badr Al-Jalawi, Minister of Commerce and Industry Abdullah Zainal Alireza, Health Minister Dr. Abdullah Al-Rabeeah, Deputy Labor Minister Abdul Wahed Al-Humaid and Agriculture Minister Fahd Balghunaim. – arabnews