In a landmark tourism moment, Saudi Arabia will open its doors to international visitors for the first time.
The announcement was made Friday and is part of the Vision 2030 plan to diversify Saudi Arabia’s economy and reduce its dependence on oil. The opening of the country to tourism is expected to result in 100 million international and domestic visits a year by 2030, which will attract foreign and domestic investment and create an estimated one million jobs.
The ultimate goal is to increase tourism’s contribution to Saudi Arabia’s GDP from the current three percent to 10 percent. With an annual airport capacity increasing by 150 million passengers and around 500,000 hotel and resort rooms being added, the country believes it is ready for the ambitious growth plan.
“Opening Saudi Arabia to international tourists is a historic moment for our country,” His Excellency Ahmad Al-Khateeb said in a statement. “Generous hospitality is at the heart of Arabian culture and we look forward to showing our guests a very warm welcome.”
“Visitors will be surprised and delighted by the treasures we have to share. Five UNESCO World Heritage Sites, a vibrant local culture and breathtaking natural beauty,” Al-Khateeb continued. “To visitors we say: be among the first to discover and explore the treasures of Arabia. To investors we say: become part of the fastest-growing tourism sector on earth.”
Travelers will have access to Saudi Arabian heritage areas and cultural experiences, including five UNESCO World Heritage Sites; Madain Saleh in Al-Ula; At-Turaif District in Ad-Diriyah; Historic Jeddah, the Gate to Mecca; Rock Art in the Hail Region; and Al-Ahsa Oasis.
In addition, Saudi Arabia boasts a diverse range of landscapes, including “the green mountains of Asir, the crystal waters of the Red Sea, the snow-covered winter plains of Tabuk and the shifting sands of the Empty Quarter.”
Last month, it was announced that the first Saudia Arabian theme park would be home to the world’s longest, tallest and fastest roller coaster.