The number of foreign tourists who visited the Kingdom in last year reached more than a million, said Abdul Rahman Al-Jassas, executive director of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques Cultural Heritage Initiative.
“These tourists have spent three times more money in the Kingdom than domestic tourists,” he said while speaking to Al-Hayat Arabic daily. He said four million foreigners visited the Kingdom on cultural tourism during the same period.
Al-Jassas said thousands of foreign tourists visited museums, art and cultural exhibitions, tourism festivals and Islamic landmarks across the country.
He commended the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage for its efforts to preserve the country’s culture and heritage.
“Until recently there were little efforts to highlight and preserve the Kingdom’s heritage,” he said, adding that the coming years would witness greater efforts in the way of protecting heritage and educating people on the importance of preserving it.
He noted the special care given by Prince Sultan Bin Salman, president of SCTH, to every heritage site in the Kingdom. “Saudis are now proud of their great heritage and cultural landmarks,” he added.
Al-Jassas referred to the obstacles facing the country’s heritage industry and called for effective measures to overcome them.
“The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques Program for Caring Cultural Heritage comes as a major initiative in this respect,” he added.
The program was instrumental in bringing about quality change in antiquities, museums, built heritage and handicrafts in terms of preservation and development.
“We have registered four heritage centers as World Heritage Sites with UNESCO and efforts are underway to register more such locations in the country,” Omar explained.
Simon Murray, senior director of National Trust in UK, said Saudi Arabia is replete with heritage sites that cope with international standards and specifications, adding that they can be further developed for tourism and heritage protection.
Ibtisam Al-Wohaibi, director of heritage at Saudi Heritage Preservation Society, said her organization has signed an agreement with the Ministry of Culture and Information to record the Kingdom’s cultural heritage such as poems, customs and traditions and handicrafts.
She said the efforts to register Al-Qatt Al-Asiri with UNESCO took 23 months, which included workshops in the Asir region with the participation of NGOs.
Al-Qatt Al-Asiri, a traditionally female interior wall decoration, is an ancient art form considered as a key element of the identity of the Asir region.
“Women invite female relatives of various age groups to help them in their homes, thereby transmitting this knowledge from generation to generation,” she added.
Source Credit: Saudi Gazette