SCTA to develop geo-tourism
In a move seen as a major step forward, the Saudi Geological Survey (SGS) has joined hands with the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA) to develop geo-tourism by reviewing the list of geological sites under consideration and work out a comprehensive formula to enable the new trend of tourism in the Kingdom.
An SCTA official said Saturday that the commission along with the Geological Survey has begun a project to determine a number of sites for development under the geological tourism project.
Geo-tourism is tourism that sustains or enhances the geographical character of a place, including rocks, its environment, culture, aesthetics, heritage and the well-being of its residents.
In tourism industry parlance geo-tourism is a niche market with considerable growth prospects at the global level.
“The SCTA explored the international experiences to adopt them in the development of geo-tourism in the Kingdom,” the official pointed out.
As the tourism sector in the Kingdom is witnessing unprecedented growth and also contributing handsomely to the national GDP and job market with new opportunities for the Saudi youth, this new dimension of tourism is expected to take tourism to new highs by transforming the deserts from empty wastelands into a revenue-generating source and offering employment opportunities.
“A joint meeting was held in this respect by the representatives of SCTA and SGS at the commission’s headquarters to review a list of geological sites that are to be developed in the next five years,” the official underlined.
Osama Al-Khelaiwi, director general of tourism sites development at SCTA, said the development of geo-tourism is a strategic goal for SCTA as it has a promising future and is a source for domestic and international tourism in the Kingdom.
He said two projects will be selected as a model and a nucleus for the development of geo-tourism in the short term and a geological site will also be developed as the first geological park in the Kingdom.
The World Tourism Organization (WTO) in a report recently announced that Saudi deserts have a huge potential for geo-tourism.
“For a country like Saudi Arabia, where a huge segment of its geographical area is desert, there is great potential to develop geological tourism,” the world tourism body said.
According to the official, the prominent sites that will come under the project are Wadi Al-Desa in Tabuk, Al-Shag, Al-Hawiya and Al-Gharameel in the Madinah Province, Al Waba, Harat Khaibar, Harat Rahat, Jabal Gadr, Masar Harat Rahat, Um Jarsan Cave (Kuhf Um Jarsan) in the Western Province, Tanuma in the Asir Province and Lajab Valley (Wadi Lajab) in Najran Province.
He informed that the joint meeting discussed a report on the field survey made by the advisory team of the ‘development of the geo-tourism project’ in the Kingdom.
The meeting also reviewed the mechanism of nomination for three sites and discussed the report on the selection of the geological site being registered as an International natural heritage site, besides the most important requirements that should be observed and followed as a technical criteria in the evaluation of the site, he added.