(MENAFN - Arab News) President of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA) Prince Sultan bin Salman said the government has plans to establish a new tourism development company that will include private, as well as state, participation.
In his address to the 42nd session of the Higher Coordination Council of the Arab Joint Action, an Arab League body, in Jeddah on Wednesday, Prince Sultan said the government also plans a consolidated program to attract investors in the tourism sector, especially in light of the increasing interest in the field expressed by young men.
Agricultural tourism projects backed by the Agricultural Development Bank have also been launched recently. The prince referred to a number of heritage projects to be launched under the financing of the Saudi Credit Bank in addition to other heritage sites under development by the SCTA.
"There are also a number of heritage villages where agreements have been made with players in the hospitality business to operate heritage hotels," the prince said. "Tourism has become one of the largest sectors for potential job opportunities."
The prince added that the SCTA's importance as a major source of employment has been underscored recently by Labor Minister Adel Fakeih who spoke at the commission's annual meeting.
Fakeih pointed to studies conducted by his ministry that showed that tourism is one of the Kingdom's potential economic engines that should get significant government support.
The prince is optimistic about the future of domestic tourism. Various segments such as antiquities and heritage are making progress like any other important economic sector, he said.
"We have been making concerted efforts to develop the sector to the level expected by the Arab Tourism Organization," the prince said, adding that the SCTA once received an award for the best work environment in the Kingdom.
"SCTA has prepared a detailed strategic plan with a time schedule for the implementation of that plan," the prince said.
The prince also described the present stage of tourism development in the Kingdom as historic and exceptional, especially from a cultural perspective.
Plans include establishing dozens of museums and developing a number of heritage and archaeological sites, besides launching awareness campaigns, he said.
Meetings are also being held with potential investors and business owners whose interests can spur the indigenization of Saudi tourism, the prince said.