The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, in partnership with the World Bank, pledged $100 million to create a global fund for inclusive tourism, according to Saudi Arabia’s tourism minister Ahmed Al Khateeb.
Al Khateeb said at the Tourism Recovery Summit 2021 in Riyadh on Wednesday: “This will be the first and the only global fund dedicated solely to sustainable international tourism growth.”
“This is a significant step towards a more inclusive, resilient and sustainable future for our sector, an opportunity to create a more responsible approach to tourism that uplifts communities and drives economies while preserving the environment and respecting local cultures,” he said.
The travel and tourism sector was one of the worst hit by the COVID-19 pandemic as movement curbs imposed to stem its spread brought travel to a halt. According to the World Travel & Tourism Council, over 62 million tourism jobs were lost last year.
The Kingdom, the world’s biggest oil exporter, is among the many countries that are planning to open to tourists as a global vaccine rollout gains pace.
Saudi Arabia is developing several sustainable projects, including Neom, a $500 billion futuristic city which includes a nature reserve, heritage sites and coral reefs, the Red Sea Development Project containing islands off the city’s western coast and a mega entertainment and sports project, named Qiddiya, in the capital.
The Kingdom also set up the Tourism Development Fund last year with an initial investment of $4bn to drive the growth of the sector in the country.
“Our giga projects will combine nature-adventure and cultural attractions in a way that adheres to the highest environmental standards. More importantly, they will also be attractive places to visit and live in,” the minister said.
“In Neom, we are developing the world’s first city with no streets, no cars and no carbon emissions,” he added. “The Red Sea Project will be the largest global destination powered solely by clean energy with no connection to the national grid.”
Al Khateeb also pointed out that Saudi Arabia aims to plant 10 billion trees as part of its green initiative.