Women have a “big role” to play in the massive expansion of Saudi Arabia’s tourism industry, according to Dr. Afnan Alshuaiby, founder and CEO of FNN International and chairperson of the Arab International Women’s Forum.
Dr. Alshuaiby was addressing a panel session at the recent Arabian Travel Market and heralded the part women can and already are playing in developing the sector, according to Arabian Business.
Unemployment among Saudi women declined from over 30 percent to 24.4 percent from Q3 to Q4 last year, according to the General Authority for Statistics, while female participation in the labor force continued to rise.
As part of Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman’s plans to transform the Kingdom’s economy, it is now common to see Saudi women working as cashiers in shopping malls and taking up roles that were previously limited to men, such as waiting tables in restaurants and brewing cappuccinos in coffee houses.
Sweeping reforms from the Crown Prince have led to women playing their role in the shaping of the Kingdom’s economy. Last year, the Minister of Justice appointed 100 women as public notaries; and in January a government official said Saudi Arabia will start appointing female court judges “soon”.
And Dr. Alshuaiby admitted the tourism industry, in particular, was benefiting from the relaxed regulations.
She said: “I have to say, since the announcement of Vision 2030 there have been so many opportunities; especially for women. In the past, women were looking for opportunities in different sectors. Tourism now is one of the most amazing sectors that you can work in.”
Saudi Arabia has set itself an ambitious target to welcome 100 million visits to the country by 2030; made up of a 45 million; 55 million split between international and domestic visits, respectively; and including leisure, work and religious stays.
Pre-COVID, in 2019, this number stood at 40 million, although the demand from the international community was there; between the launch of new tourist visas in September 2019 and borders closing in March last year, some 400,000 eVisas had been issued.
“Saudi Arabia’s population is very young and these young people, men and women; are very passionate about what they’re doing,” said Dr. Alshuaiby.