Saudi’s domestic tourism has grown during 2008, with internal tourism expenditures of SR74.1bn, a rise of 44.4% over 2007.
The number of domestic tourist trips in Saudi Arabia in 2008 amounted to 43.5 million journeys compared to 40.1 million trips in 2007, a growth of 8.6%, according to reports by the tourism information and research centre in Saudi Arabia (MAS).
Tourist facilities have also contributed significantly to the recruitment of Saudi nationals, accounting for 445,628 jobs last year.
General Authority for Tourism and Antiquities, founded in April 2000 oversees the tourism sector in Saudi Arabia.
The Commission for Tourism and Antiquities surveyed over 12,000 tourist attraction sites, through a working group of the government agencies concerned, including the municipalities and regions’ secretariats.
A total of 399 public property sites were seen as having potential for tourism development.
The Saudi Cabinet has approved a tourism development strategy for the Red Sea coast, and the commission is working on putting it into effect by submitting it to the Cabinet.
This will lead to the establishment of a system of tourist resorts in priority locations by the Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs, and to examine the possibility of developing these in partnership with the private sector.
Plans have also been set for the development of six destinations of Al Akir in the eastern province, and Juzur Fursan and Ras Al Tarfa in Jizan, Al Berak in Asir, Rais in Medina, Sharma/Kial in Tabuk, Okaz market in Mecca, in addition to nine other tourist sites and Lake Domat Al-Jandal in Jouf.
Development visions are also currently being set for two tourist destinations in Yanbu and Al Layth.
It has been taken into account for these destinations and sites to span across most areas of the kingdom, highlighting its distinctive natural and cultural features, to attract the largest group from the targeted tourism markets.
The Saudi government has approved a $38bn tourism program, through which the government invests SR19.2bn for the development of the transport system, and five projects for the construction of new airports.
The latest of these is the Juzur Fursan airport, including a $1.5bn building in Jeddah, in addition to government construction plans for a $1.8bn, 450 km, electric railway connecting Jeddah, Mecca and Medina.
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