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Jeddah - Yasmine El Tohamy - LONDON: Saudi Arabia is sticking by its target of attracting 100 million visits by 2030 despite the devastating impact of the coronavirus pandemic on its fledgling tourism sector.
Saudi Tourism Authority Adviser Mahmoud Abdulhadi said that about a half a million tourism visas had been issued between last autumn and the arrival of the pandemic in the Kingdom in the spring, which brought international air travel to a halt.
“Whenever there is a crisis of sorts (such as the coronavirus pandemic), tourism is probably the first to suffer but also the first to rebound, so this gives us a lot of hope that our plans will come to fruition,” Abdulhadi told the virtually hosted BMG Economic Forum on Wednesday.
He said that the tourism authority was sticking to its long term targets but that it was difficult to give short term projections about tourism visits as the global economy emerges from lockdown.
“After the pandemic we are going to be working very hard to make sure all of our destinations are ready to meet those 2030 targets. You will see a lot of activity,” he said.
Saudi Arabia is investing billions of dollars in developing its tourism infrastructure with a focus on some 38 sites in seven key locations across the Kingdom.
Tourism chiefs recently announced the “Saudi Summer” initiative with the slogan “tanaffas,” which is Arabic for breathe.
The aim is to kickstart domestic tourism after its near paralysis as a result of the coronavirus lockdown.
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