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Saudi Arabia hopes to welcome 4 million Chinese tourists by 2030

By Ouyang Xueyan in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2023-09-29 02:35

Saudi Arabia plans to have Mandarin-speaking tour guides and mobile payment options in place as part of its bid to attract 4 million Chinese tourists by 2030, the nation's vice-minister of tourism, Haifa Al Saud, told China Daily.

"We're working with the destination management company currently, to upscale the tour guides that they have, and bring in tour guides that speak Mandarin, in order to accommodate our Chinese visitors," Al Saud said on Wednesday, on the sideline of World Tourism Day 2023 events in Riyadh.

With a bilateral agreement to promote tourism, China has already been enrolled in Saudi Arabia's expedited e-visa program, and SAUDIA airline is offering passengers on a 96-hour stopover visa a one-night hotel stay in the kingdom.

Many Chinese people have also noticed signage at Riyadh's airport in their language; one of several measures put in place earlier this year to facilitate Chinese visitors. Other initiatives include the official Chinese-language tourist portal VisitSaudi.cn, a Chinese-language hotline, and the UnionPay card program.

"We're so excited to have them (Chinese signs), and we don't just want to see it on boards," said Al Saud. "We want (Chinese tourists) to actually communicate with Saudi guides that shall be speaking in Mandarin."

And, having noticed that Chinese tourists are accustomed to making mobile payments, she added: "We're working on rolling out different mobile payments to accommodate our different customers, and especially those payments that work with our Chinese guests."

Under Saudi Arabia's Vision 2030 program, the kingdom intends to boost tourism to 100 million annual visits by 2030.

"The public transportation system is continuously expanding," said Al Saud, who added that the metro system will soon be open in Riyadh, and that more bus stops will be set up in major cities during the next two years.

Xing Yi in London contributed to the story.

A scene of Diriyah, a town in Saudi Arabia. [Photo provided to China Daily]
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