Saudi keen on strengthening tourism ties among Islamic countries

Saudi Arabia is seeking to spearhead tourism among Islamic countries. The secretary-general for the Supreme Commission for Tourism, Prince Sultan bin Salman, has recently helped open the first forum for tourism in Islamic countries.

Saudi’s Prince Sultan bin Salman, who is also the secretary-general for the Supreme Commission for Tourism (SCT), recently opened the first forum for tourism in Islamic countries, held in Jeddah governorate, along with Saudi Interior Minister Prince Naif bin Abdul-Aziz, who is also the chairman of the SCT board of directors.

Prince Sultan shed light on the great economic prestige of the tourism sector at the world level and its role in increasing the economic incomes, raising the local production, and providing job opportunities. He also mentioned that the Islamic countries have tourism potentials, including natural, environmental, heritage, and cultural potentials, making them a distinctive region because of its nature and civilization.

Prince Sultan said he expects the countries’ growth that achieves a big tourism development to benefit from the positive sides of this sector in a way suitable for the characteristics and values of such countries. He also clarified that provision of infrastructure and human and natural potentials are not enough to attract tourism investments to Islamic countries unless there was a serious desire in facilitating and attracting investments and preparing plans to organize them by tourism officials.

The secretary-general for the Supreme Commission for Tourism said he hoped that this forum would be an opportunity to exchange experiences, get to know a number of successful and special experiments accomplished by Islamic countries in the tourism field, and to strengthen the cooperation among the Islamic Conference Organization (ICO) countries in this essential economic domain.

It is worth mentioning that the forum has aimed at adopting an effective and strong strategy for the tourism promotion and marketing at the level of ICO countries with adopting a mechanism to improve the basic structure of tourism, like hotels, restaurants, communication services, and transportation. In addition, this forum aims at preparing complete tourism programs, holding tourism festivals to display the cultural inheritance, and strengthening the relationship among tourism-related bodies.

The forum involved a number of sessions and workshops discussing several topics, such as the tourism fact in Islamic countries, its development fields, the international tourism in ICO countries between expectations and challenges, and freeing the service trade in the tourism sector.

Moreover, the forum will include a preview of tourism experiments for Iran, Turkey, and Tunis, and it will discuss a paper presented by the SCT about the tourism role in developing the economic cooperation among Islamic countries. Beside the forum, an exhibition on tourism in Islamic countries will be organized where a number of tourism commissions and organizations with companies working in the tourism domain will participate.

At the forum, Prince Sultan stated in a press conference that tourism in the Islamic countries, despite the enormous capacities, did not reach the level of other countries. Today tourism is not only sites and programs, its also includes the infrastructure, services, accommodation and regulations which serves and protects tourists, in addition a collaboration and integration between Islamic countries concerning joint cultural and archaeological heritage, or tourism sites and programs,” he said.

He commented that commented that tourism is worldwide the first of three major economical sectors. Therefore, he feels that Islamic countries urgently need to develop a tourism industry compatible with the bright aspects of Islam.

When asked about the effects of the political differences between Islamic countries, he said: Politics effects everything especially the economical aspect; tourism is a service providing industry therefore it is affected by political differences. We hope that Islamic countries have a stable relation of mutual understanding to serve Islam and the Muslim nation.

He added: The importance of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is derived from its religious importance to all Muslims, our tourism is based on this religious importance as well as traditions and values. I do not want to categorize the Kingdom; the Kingdom is open to all especially for those interested in its religion, culture and heritage.

On the need of enhancing the infrastructure and tourism promotion, he said: Such forums and conferences are one of the keys to overcome these issues, and are the base for develop and strengthen the infrastructure as well as enhancing inter-tourism in Islamic countries.

When asked about the requirements of tourism in the Islamic countries, and if there was a mechanism to link these countries, Prince Sultan said: We do not intend to merge tourism between Islamic countries, we are united under Islam and Islamic values, in Saudi Arabia we honor our Islamic values and aim to develop a tourism industry which is compatible with these values.

The forum was organized by the Saudi Council of Commercial and Industrial Chambers, the Islamic Chamber of Commerce and Industry in cooperation with the SCT, within the frame of activating decisions of the third round of the ICO of tourism ministers, which was held in Riyadh during Sha’ban 1423H. That round aimed at identifying the required role of the private sector to improve the economic sector and develop the tourism investment in Islamic countries.