Riyadh, Asharq Al-Awsat- The Supreme Authority for Tourism in Saudi Arabia announced last week the adoption of a new system that will encourage the founding of companies for the planning and development of tourist sites and for the establishing, managing and licensing of museums. It also aims to produce a register for Saudi antiquities and to prepare them for display. The authority revealed that the Saudi ministries of interiors and foreign affairs as well as other affiliated authorities will participate in organizing the issuing of tourist visas. The new system that was approved by the Saudi Cabinet recently and that will be brought into effect 90 days after it is published in the official journal stated that the authority will work towards preserving archaeological sites that fall under the category of private properties in order to maintain, renovate and develop them. Furthermore, it included the proposal to expropriate ownership of these sites and buildings in accordance with the system of expropriation for the sake of public interest and this includes buildings and land within the vicinity of these sites so as to protect them and make the most of them.
According to the new system, the Public Authority for Tourism and Antiquities is a public authority and a legal and independent entity affiliated to the cabinet. Its headquarters will be based in Riyadh. It will also establish branches or bureaus in different Saudi provinces where necessary.
Saudi Arabia seeks to strengthen the tourism sector and overcome the obstacles that impede its development since this sector is an important element to the Saudi national economy and should correspond to the status of Saudi Arabia, its values, the protection and preservation of antiquities and should activate their involvement in cultural and economic development as well as the protection of museums and development of archaeological activity in Saudi Arabia.
The private sector will primarily be entitled with establishing investment tourism facilities; public tourist sites however will be maintained by the system and will not be owned by others. The use and investment of these public sites should take place directly through the state or be leased to the private sector via public competition. The new system states that the Public Authority for Tourism and Antiquities will propose public policies aimed at developing and promoting tourism, antiquities and museums setting in place the required plans and programs to fulfil these objectives and supervising the implementation of these plans with affiliated authorities as well as issuing licenses for tourist activity, professions and resorts and supervising them. In cooperation with other authorities, the authority will organize tourist activity and professions and participate with the ministries of interior and foreign affairs and other affiliated authorities to arrange for tourist visas.
The Public Authority for Tourism and Antiquities is responsible for arranging and monitoring the facilities of tourist resorts. It is also entitled with assessing infrastructure projects of tourist sites in different provinces of Saudi Arabia, setting in place the necessary plans to complete these infrastructures with the cooperation of affiliated authorities and discussing them with provincial councils. The authority can conduct comprehensive surveys on tourist sites in the kingdom, periodically modernize these sites with the cooperation of concerned authorities and evaluate the tourism potentials of each province. The authority is also responsible for overcoming the obstacles that impede tourist activity and suggesting methods and incentives needed for investors in this field as well as participating with affiliated government authorities in preserving public tourist sites.
The Public Authority for Tourism and Antiquities will work towards implementing media and marketing plans so as to encourage investment in the field of tourism. The authority will also support all activities that assist in developing and encouraging tourism, preserving tourist sites, antiquities, national and popular urban heritage, crafts, traditional industries and markets. Efforts will be coordinated between government and non-government authorities.
The Public Authority for Tourism and Antiquities will begin to endorse cooperation and coordination between Saudi Arabia and other countries in order to achieve the objectives of the authority in accordance with observed rules and regulations. The authority will also encourage the private sector to establish companies that plan, develop and invest in tourist sites. The authority will resort to the Supreme Economic Council in the case that there is a need to establish companies fully or partially owned by the state that will be entitled with planning and investing in tourist sites.
With regards to antiquities, the authority will develop a register for Saudi antiquities, set regulations that govern this register and determine the archaeological nature and ages of antiquities. The authority will also work upon protecting, restoring and managing antiquities and preparing them for display as well as protecting and developing urban heritage. This plan will include cities, districts, villages, buildings, crafts, traditional industries and historical sites and investing in them on cultural and economic levels. The authority will also conduct land surveys and excavations and will license parties to assume such tasks in coordination with concerned authorities.
The authority will establish and administer museums, issue licenses to establish private museums and supervise them as well as conduct research and studies, and encourage scientific research in councils of tourism and antiquities along with spreading awareness and knowledge on the importance of domestic tourism and the preservation of antiquities by publishing books and issuing brochures, magazines, periodicals and other sources of information.
The authority will also work to retrieve national antiquities that are present outside of Saudi Arabia in accord with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The authority will also be responsible for organising exhibitions on travel, tourism and antiquities and will hold meetings, seminars and conferences covering these fields and will communicate with international organizations concerned with tourism, antiquities and museums.