British tourists, followed by Chinese, were the top visitors,Ahmed Al-Khateeb, chairman of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and NationalHeritage, said in an interview in Riyadh. About 140,000 people requestedtourist visas, he added.
The numbers are "in line with our expectations," saidAl-Khateeb, a key adviser to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. "We are expectingthat the adventurous will come first to explore the country, and this is whatis happening."
He spoke on the sidelines of an event to launch a $17 billionproject called Diriyah Gate, a revamp of the historic hometown of the Saudiroyal family that officials want to be a major draw for tourists.
While representing an important beginning for theconservative Islamic kingdom, there's a long way to go before it can compare tolong-established regional destinations. Dubai received more than 130,000 Sauditourists a month on average last year. Officials say they'll need to addflights and hotel rooms to meet demand as they chase their targets.