Saudi FM meets Spanish counterpart in Luxembourg

Saudi FM meets Spanish counterpart in Luxembourg
Saudi FM meets Spanish counterpart in Luxembourg

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Jeddah - Yasmine El Tohamy - RIYADH: The Royal Commission for AlUla aims to host 2 million visitors annually and create 40,500 jobs by 2035, a top RCU official has said.

Speaking on the second day of the inaugural Hima protected areas forum in Riyadh in a session titled “Protected Areas and Economic Development,” keynote speaker Dr. Stephen Browne, vice president of wildlife and natural heritage at the RCU, shared AlUla’s vision for protected area development and its economic impact.

He said: “Our efforts are rooted in an inspirational vision and a clear mission. We have set for ourselves three overarching targets for 2035: 2 million visitors annually, 40,500 new jobs to be created and SR150 billion ($40 billion) cumulative contribution to gross domestic product.

“Our mission is to enable AlUla develop for its communities and visitors through regenerating and protecting its cultural landscape, and providing quality of life,” he added.

“We are fostering a vibrant and prosperous community to support the development of a sustainable future for AlUla through capacity building: Providing world-class education and training, creating job opportunities for AlUla residents in tourism and other economic sectors, promoting local business entrepreneurs by establishing startup incubators, and improving quality of life by providing high-quality healthcare services and creating exciting community engagement opportunities,” Browne said.

“Nature and wildlife are core pillars of AlUla’s strategy — equally as important as economic and social development, tourism, heritage, art and culture. AlUla aspires to be a global destination — nature reserves and wildlife are a big part of that,” he added.

“Our strategy is built upon seven strategic pillars: Tourism, heritage, art and culture, nature and wildlife, economic and social development, spatial development, enabling services and institutional excellence.”

Dr. Talal Al-Harigi, CEO of the Imam Abdulaziz bin Mohammed Royal Reserve, said during the session: “Many conservation and protected areas often operate as cost centers. The challenge lies in transitioning from this model to one that generates profit or finding a harmonious balance between the two. Leveraging ecotourism and exploring additional economic activities presents viable pathways toward achieving this goal.”

Nada Al-Tamimi, assistant deputy of national affairs at the Saudi Ministry of Tourism, discussed the positive impacts of sustainable tourism on protected areas and local communities.

“Sustainable ecotourism meticulously curated and thoughtfully managed not only meets the desires of travelers, but also serves as a vital engine for revenue generation, job creation and economic prosperity,” she said.

Dr. Stuart Williams, chief adviser to the Protected Areas Directorate of the National Center for Wildlife, said: “We must adopt a long-term perspective: When our population’s well-being is ensured and their happiness secured, we will have more than demonstrated to economists that every riyal invested will yield significant returns.”

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