More than 30 Saudi companies are taking part in the Arabian Travel Market (ATM) in Dubai under the umbrella of the Saudi Arabia pavilion led by the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA).
Prince Sultan bin Salman, president of SCTA, who visited the Saudi pavilion yesterday, said around 4.9 million Gulf tourists visited the Kingdom last year, accounting for 34 percent of the foreign tourists arriving in Saudi Arabia on short trips.
He also voiced hope Aqir would become a leading tourism destination in the Gulf.
Prince Sultan said a new company was being set up to handle the Aqir project.
He said Saudi Electricity Co and National Water Co. would begin preliminary work soon on utility services for the project.
The prince said SR 1 billion had been allocated for the implementation of the basic needs of the new company adding that SR 400 million would be spent to set up the water and sewage facilities.
Dubai Deputy Ruler Sheikh Maktoum bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum earlier opened Arabian Travel Market in the presence of senior government officials, leaders of the regional and international travel industry as well as high-profile participants.
He also toured the exhibition along with other dignitaries.
The four-day show has a strong presence of tourism players from Saudi Arabia.
“The aim of our participation is to promote and attract investments to Saudi tourism destinations as well as marketing Saudi Arabia as a preferable tourism destination to GCC countries,” said Hamad bin Abdul Aziz Al-Sheikh, assistant vice president of SCTA for Marketing.
“SCTA was keen that the Saudi pavilion in this significant event to include the Saudi companies that seek to increase their portion in GCC travel market through introducing Saudi destinations to GCC citizens in light of SCTA’s persistent support to investors and Saudi companies that are engaged in tourism and travel sector,” he added.
The SCTA pavilion highlights tourism potentials in the Kingdom in addition to investment opportunities, discussing potential of cooperation with GCC travel and tourism companies, featuring a workshop on designing and organizing tourism programs about Saudi tourism destinations for GCC citizens, especially destinations that may have regular flights to GCC countries such as Al-Taif, Abha, Al-Qaseem and Hail.
Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al-Maktoum, chairman and chief executive of Emirates Airline Group, meanwhile, said Dubai received more than 10 million visitors in 2012.
He was addressing a seminar titled “20 years, then, now and tomorrow” at the Arabian Travel Market.
In his remarks at the seminar, Sheikh Ahmed added: “This landmark figure (10 million visitors) is a strong endorsement of Dubai’s destination management strategy, its infrastructure and location at the crossroads of east and west. Chinese visitors were up 28 percent and the number of Russians arriving jumped 54 percent.”
The 2012 figures also showed the number of Dubai hotel establishments increased from 575 to just under 600 during the year, a remarkable inventory of accommodation spanning all budgets. Extraordinary growth in 20 years — looking back there were just 167 hotels in Dubai in 1993.
“Back in 1993, Emirates airline was still largely in its infancy, although already making a mark with its innovations. That year, Emirates was the first carrier to introduce telecommunications on an Airbus — in all three classes,” he said.
“Nowadays, Emirates offers showers at 43,000 feet, more than 1,400 channels of inflight entertainment and WiFi,” Sheikh Ahmed added.
Now, as well as boasting the world’s tallest building, Dubai is also home to the world’s tallest hotel, JW Marriott Marquis.
“As Dubai powers down the road of development, Dubai International is rapidly becoming the world’s leading airport. The facility was recently confirmed as the world’s second busiest airport for international passenger traffic, overtaking Paris Charles de Gaulle for the first time,” Sheikh Ahmed said.
And with the opening of Concourse A, the world’s first purpose built A380 concourse, Dubai can legitimately claim the title of the world’s A380 capital. At the same, operations at the gigantic Dubai World Central are ramping up and passenger flights start in October.
Over the past 20 years, the influences of aviation and tourism have been so spectacular, they have formed the bedrock of the UAE economy.
Researchers estimated that the aviation industry supports over 250,000 jobs and contributes over $ 22 billion to Dubai’s GDP. This represents around 19% of total employment in Dubai, and 28 percent of Dubai’s GDP.
“Dubai has achieved so much at a pace that many other cities can only dream of. Dubai’s Strategic Plan builds on those achievements and highlights a number of areas, such as the economy, infrastructure and the environment,” Sheikh Ahmed said.