Saudi Arabia identifies five caves for ecotourism drive
Saudi Geological Survey reportedly plans to launch the projects as part of the Saudi Arabia's Vision 2030 initiative
According to a report on Hotelier Middle East’s sister online portal, Arabian Business, Saudi Arabia has reportedly identified five caves where it plans to launch ecotourism destinations this year.
Saudi Geological Survey (SGS), the kingdom’s national geological organisation, plans to launch the projects as part of the Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 initiative.
"We are ready," said Mahmoud Al Shanti, director of the Saudi Geological Survey’s Cave Unit and Desert Studies, in comments published by Lonely Planet News.
"We are now choosing easy access points for tourists, but won’t announce the names and locations of the caves yet."
SGS is remaining tight-lipped on the specific locations of the subterranean sites to prevent people going inside and destroying them, Al Shanti said, adding that the caves are 200km north of Riyadh.
Al Shanti told Lonely Planet that the caves must be managed and protected to ensure the survival of wildlife including bats, hyenas, foxes and owls.
SGS said it estimates that, once opened, the attractions could receive more than 1,000 visitors a day, with tour guides being trained to show tourists around the area.
"These are remote places and the villages must be ready to receive tourists," Al Shanti was quoted as saying.
In November, Saudi Arabia's sovereign wealth fund also announced plans to develop a new eco-tourism project as part of the Prince Mohammed bin Salman Natural Reserve near Tabuk.
The Public Investment Fund (PIF) said it will set up a company to work on the Wadi Al Disah Development Project, which aims to become a "major sustainable tourism location", preserving the local environment and wildlife.
The announcement of the Wadi Al Disah Development Project followed the launch of the Amaala ultra-luxury tourism project in September, which will be the focal point of the tourism ecosystem within the Prince Mohammed bin Salman Natural Reserve.