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Saudi Arabia eyes tourism transformation

Arab state highlights charming heritage sites through sustainable development

By Jan Yumul in Hong Kong | China Daily | Updated: 2024-05-03 09:05

Historic Jeddah had a symbolic role as a gate to Makkah for Muslim pilgrims reaching Saudi Arabia by boat in old times, according to UNESCO, and continues to attract visitors from all walks of life for its ancient charm and entertainment. CHINA DAILY

Saudi Arabia is teeming with unique experiences, from its charming heritage sites and sandy beaches, to its resort destinations, attracting solo travelers and families alike, not to mention its renowned holy sites for Muslim pilgrims and the vastness of its desert landscapes.

After welcoming a record 100 million tourists last year, thus surpassing its goals for Vision 2030, a grand economic diversification plan introduced by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud in 2016, Chinese visitors and talents are poised to continue playing a significant role in the country's tourism development.

There were 140,000 Chinese visitors who came to Saudi Arabia last year, surpassing 2019 figures, which were at an estimated 111,000, according to Gloria Guevara Manzo, chief special adviser at the Ministry of Tourism Saudi Arabia, in an interview with China Daily in March.

When it launched its "Rethink Summer" campaign last year, the Saudi Tourism Authority invited Chinese holidaymakers to experience glamping in a Bedouin camp in AlUla and budget holidays in Jeddah, a major port in the central Hejaz region in western Saudi Arabia.

According to the UNESCO World Heritage Centre's website, Jeddah was, for centuries, "the most important, largest and richest among these settlements".

Today, it said, historic Jeddah "is the last surviving urban site along the Red Sea coast" that still preserves the ensemble of the attributes of this culture: commercial-based economy, multi-cultural environment, isolated outward-oriented houses, coral masonry construction, precious woodwork decorating the facades, and specific technical devices to aid internal ventilation.

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