(MENAFN - Arab News) The recent Cabinet decision to set up the King Abdullah Project for Urban Heritage Development and more financial and administrative support for the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA) is a shot in the arm for the Kingdom's tourism industry, according to a Saudi Press Agency (SPA) report.
The industry is expected to provide large-scale employment for unemployed young Saudis and boost economic growth, the SPA report stated.
The Cabinet decision is also expected to accelerate the development of the sector, and improve services to match customer charges.
The SCTA is currently working on major programs, projects and systems including establishing domestic tourism development companies with public and private investments.
It is in the final stages of launching the SR2.7 billion Aqir closed joint stock company in Al-Ahsa with public and private sector support, the report stated.
It also plans to set up joint stock companies to launch heritage hotel and hospitality projects in the Samhan district in Al-Diriyah in Riyadh, Jeddah's old historic area, and at locations in Al-Ula and Al-Ahsa. Feasibility studies for the Samhan district project is already underway.
The report said that the SCTA would also establish the Saudi Tourism Development and Investment Co., a government holding company, owned by the General Investment Fund with capital of SR200 million.
The SCTA has signed agreements with government financing institutions such as the Saudi Credit and Savings Bank, Saudi Industrial Development Fund, Agricultural Development Fund, Centenary Fund and Human Resources Development Fund, to make financing available for tourism investors.
The SCTA's studies have shown that the domestic tourism industry needs generous financing by government agencies to succeed, including in tourist hotels, resorts, residential units, travel and guide agencies, exhibitions, heritage and archaeological projects, handicrafts, museums, amusement and sports projects, eco-tourism projects, desert camping facilities, folk restaurants and coffee houses. Government also needs to finance the development of highways linking tourist spots and establish tourism services training institutes, the report stated.
The SCTA has recommended that agencies simplify their credit procedures and increase loan amounts.
The tourism body recently launched 20 investment portfolios for tourist projects and contributed to financing 195 projects at a cost of SR196 million.
It is also working in coordination with the Ministry of Finance to lay down a mechanism for long term leasing at tourist locations to encourage private investments, the report stated.
Meanwhile, Education Minister Prince Khaled Al-Faisal said the ministry would work with the SCTA to make young people aware of their country's history and heritage and strengthen their sense of national identity.
Prince Khaled also underscored the efforts of Prince Sultan bin Salman, the SCTA president, in making tourism a significant sector in the national economy, SPA reported.
Prince Khaled made this observation in a meeting with Prince Sultan at the Ministry of Education's office in Riyadh on Thursday.
Prince Sultan said Prince Khaled played a remarkable role in the development of tourism in the county and was the driving force behind promoting the industry in the Kingdom 35 years ago.
The newly launched King Abdullah Project for Urban Heritage Development depended on the cooperation of the ministry to succeed. The project aims to spread awareness about the Kingdom's heritage and history, the SPA report stated.