Saudi Arabia has launched a company to establish the cruise sector in the country, aiming to generate more than 50,000 jobs in the tourism industry.
Saudi Cruise, launched by the Public Investment Fund (PIF), will work on putting the Kingdom on the international cruise map as a tourist destination, in line with the goals of the Vision 2030 reform plan.
It will develop routes that allow people to explore the country’s heritage and culture in a way that preserves the environment and protects natural resources.
“The employment rates have decreased due to the pandemic,” said Layal Abdullah, a 27-year-old public relations employee in Jeddah. “The fact that the Kingdom is working toward empowering a whole new sector, while also working toward raising employment rates, is encouraging.”
Abdullah also said she expected cruises to be a hit with locals and visitors alike.
“Like everything the Kingdom has accomplished through its investment in tourism, from Saudi Seasons to AlUla and other sites, I’m absolutely sure this will draw a lot of people.”
Others were also optimistic about the arrival of a new industry — and a new way of holidaying — but were concerned about cruise prices being out of reach.
Financial analyst Ahmad Al-Asmari told Arab News that while the new project was “very appealing,” it would be disappointing if it catered to a certain social class.
He recalled the prices of the Red Sea Spirit leisure cruise, which ranged between SR7,000 ($1,866) and SR10,000. “If they’re anything like that, I don’t believe many locals will be interested just due to the fact that they can’t afford it,” he added.
The launch of the Jeddah-based company is in line with the PIF’s 2021-2025 strategy, which focuses on unlocking the Kingdom’s potential in the non-oil sectors.
The fund and its subsidiaries aim to contribute to the country’s gross domestic product with SR1.2 trillion through non-oil revenue by the end of 2025.
It aims to make the most of the Kingdom’s tourist attractions, as well as its historical and cultural heritage, starting with UNESCO sites and geographical sites that showcase the country’s mountainous or marine environment.
Red Sea Spirit launched its first recreational cruise in Saudi Arabia last August, with itineraries taking in the sights at Yanbu, Ras Abyadh, NEOM, and Magna.