“Kuwait stands posed at the threshold of a new era of tourism and development,” said Mrs Nabila Al-Anjari, Assistant Under-Secretary for Tourism in Kuwait.
Highlighting comments made earlier this year by His Highness, Prime Minister, Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmed Al Jaber Al Sabah, Al-Anjari added: “Tourism is now a strategic objective in order to diversify the national income and create new jobs for Kuwaitis. Presently nationals spend an estimated US$3 billion on tourism outside of the country and the government is keen to see a high proportion of this revenue boost Kuwait’s GDP.
“The government of Kuwait is now launching an extensive tourism development plan with the number one priority being to develop and improve domestic tourism.”
Statistical studies have shown that a large percentage of Kuwaitis, 79%, leave Kuwait to vacation abroad, while reporting that approximately the same percentage would prefer to spend their prime vacation time in Kuwait if enough domestic tourism facilities were available.
As a second priority, Kuwait is positioning itself as an inbound GCC tourist destination with a strong emphasis on business traveller meetings and exhibits, and as an excellent family holiday destination for GCC residents.
In early 2004, Kuwait took ground-breaking steps to promote visitor travel and business investment in the country, which will in turn promote diversification of the domestic economy, providing another source of foreign capital and creating more employment for Kuwait’s citizens.
From March 2004, visitors from North America, most of Western Europe, South-East Asia, Australia and New Zealand will obtain entry visas upon arrival to Kuwait. In the previous procedure, all visitors were required to obtain a visa weeks prior to any travel to the country.
Mr. Rasheed Al-Tabtabaee, Under-Secretary, Kuwait Ministry of Commerce & Industry, spoke about the Foreign Investment Law, another significant step towards the promotion of foreign investment and capital entering the Kuwait economy. This new regulation, implemented last October allows foreign companies to operate in Kuwait, and includes lucrative incentives for foreign investment, such as 100% foreign ownership within the majority of sectors, including tourism.
In addition to changes in immigration and investment regulations, booming development plans for business travellers include private sector investments in 20 new hotel projects and an increase in the number of meeting incentive travel packages.
These developments will also impact Kuwait’s position as a family destination, in addition to plans for a leisure park in Salmiya, an entertainment project in Jahra, and a recreation park in Sabahiyah. Hotel developments are planned for a range of travellers’ needs, from 5-star luxury to budget-minded accommodation. Long-term investment plans for Kuwait’s tourism industry include the development of the offshore islands, open areas, and current commercial locations.
“Generally a world-class infrastructure is in place,” says Al-Anjari. “However, more work is underway to refine the current conditions and encourage tremendous growth throughout the hospitality and tourism industry.”
At present, the government is involved in the pre-qualification of 115 companies interested in developing Failaka Island, home to Kuwait’s most significant archaeological site. This development will include hotels, shops, residential complexes, a media centre and restaurants with an estimated cost of US$ 3.3 billion. Studies are also underway for projects on the largest offshore island, Bubiyan Island, which is graced with white sand beaches and coral reefs.
A golf course is being constructed at the 6th ring motorway with plans to open in early 2005. The golf club project with its sport, entertainment and commercial facilities will cost an estimated US$ 5 million to complete.
“With the implementation and ongoing improvements of the new visa scheme and the addition of relaxed foreign investment regulations, allowing 100% owned foreign investment for the first time, Kuwait’s tourism industry is being given a green light for growth,” concluded Al-Anjari.
Wednesday, May 5- 2004 @ 9:40 UAE local time (GMT+4) Replication or redistribution in whole or in part is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Mediaquest FZ LLC.