(MENAFN - Arab News) The Kingdom needs to introduce studies at higher education institutions to ensure the country adequately documents its rich history including the expansions of the two holy mosques. This was one of several recommendations issued at the National Heritage Forum at Madinah's Taiba University recently. Delegates said the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA) should ensure this happens.
About 100 national and international scientists, researchers and specialists are taking part in the forum.
In a workshop entitled "The role of municipalities in the preservation of urban heritage," governors of the regions said the government should allocate special budgets at municipal level for the development of heritage sites. Prince Sultan bin Salman, chairman of the SCTA, praised agencies and individuals for restoring the country's ancient sites and turning them into attractive tourist destinations.
Prince Sultan said there was ongoing development taking place in the downtown area of Hofuf and its market area, and a project to develop the old city of Jeddah. He said the SCTA was cooperating with municipalities in both cities on these projects.
He said the Kingdom was working with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to declare these areas world heritage sites. He said the SCTA would also soon launch a special project for the creation of heritage hotels in the Kingdom.
Khalid bin Abdul Qader Taher, secretary of Madinah region, said the city has worked out a plan to preserve its architectural sites. Hani Abu Ras, mayor of Jeddah, said this was also taking place in his city, with the establishment of special departments and committees. In Dammam, efforts are continuing to establish a center for urban heritage in the Eastern Province, delegates heard.
Delegates at the forum said that a special budget has to be allocated for projects to boost job creation and growth in the tourism sector. There was also a need for training, and for mayors of various cities to travel and learn from other regions.
Several speakers at the event highlighted the various developments taking place in Madinah including Fahad Al-Samari, who delivered a paper on the "History of Madinah and its connection to the Saudi State." Tanaidab Al-Faydi, a researcher, said more attention should be focused on protecting ancient architectural and culturally rich sites. The Tourism Information and Research Center (MAS) of the SCTA revealed the the average tourist expenditure per night during the National Forum on Architectural Heritage in Jeddah in 2011, and the Eastern Region in 2012, was SR118 and SR347. Jeddah had more expensive accommodation and shopping events.
In the overall assessment of the events associated with the forum, results suggested the Eastern Province outperformed the other locations by 13 percent. A total of 80 percent of the participants said transport for tourist trips were excellent, 61 percent of the visitors said they were completely comfortable, and 81 percent scored the organization of the events 4.2 out of 5.