Saudi Tourism Authority makes grand debut in India; envisions 100mn global visits by 2030
Driven by a transformative economic and social plan, Saudi Vision 2030, and backed by some of the world’s most ambitious and audacious projects, Saudi Tourism made a big splash destination launch in the Indian market. Saudi Tourism not only occupied a sprawling vantage booth at SATTE last month, but it was also the premier partner country to the Show, thereby showing a strong intent and commitment towards developing the Indian market. Saudi Tourism also inked several MoUs with industry associations, OTAs and such players during the event aimed at growing Indian tourist arrivals to the Kingdom.
In an conversation with TravelBiz Monitor on the sidelines of the event, a forceful Alhassan Ali Aldabbagh, Chief Markets Officer (CMO) – Asia Pacific, Saudi Tourism Authority (STA), while welcoming the South Asian travellers to the “Authentic Home of Arabia” insisted that a hitherto unexplored and pristine Saudi Arabia is a culture Indian travellers have never explored, and that it extends a welcome travellers will never forget.
Tourism is on the verge of big boom in Saudi. As Aldabbagh informs, not only is Saudi making massive investment in ramping up the country’s state-of-the-art and modern tourism infrastructure in line with international trends and demands, but is also already home to a great many existing cultural heritage sites and attractions, unique destinations and so much more.
For the uninitiated, Tourism is at the core of the Saudi Vision 2030. The country is investing USD 800 billion over the next eight years, until 2030. It has set a target of 100 million tourism visits by that year, and a GDP share growth from 3 per cent to 10 per cent by 2030.
“Tourism is the core of Vision 2030. And as part of this vision by the year 2030 we want to achieve 100 million visits in Saudi Arabia. This is very ambitious. We want to make Saudi one of the top five destinations in the world. We are already set out on a road map to achieve this target going forward, and also to increase our tourism GDP to 10 per cent by 2030,” informed Aldabbagh. In 2021, Saudi clocked 62 million visits, predominantly including domestic tourists and about three million inbound visits.
“We are investing over USD 800 billion in the next eight years, and this money is earmarked for investment in the tourism eco-system, including infrastructure. This includes the giga-projects like AlUla, Red Sea, Neom, Amaala, Qiddiya. Each one of these projects is offering a different value proposition to attract different traveller segments. There is no other destination in the world today that is investing in tourism today as much as we are. It shows the level of commitment that we are putting forward to achieve our ambition,” the CMO informed, while elaborating on the tourism projects being developed under Saudi Vision 2030 plan.
AlUla is already operational. There is a pipeline of hotels that are coming up online soon. Top of the line Banyan Tree is opening in October this year. The Red Sea also is coming online soon. Neom will be a bit down the road. Then there is Qiddiya, the entertainment city South of Riyadh. All of these projects are among the flagship projects under Saudi Vision 2030 currently under various stages of development, with some, like AlUla, are already attracting visitors.
“In addition to that we already have existing destinations within Saudi that is ready today. We have Jeddah where we offer variety of experiences as well as cultural heritage experiences in the old town. We have Riyadh, a very pulsating city, where there are a lot of activities and events taking place. In the Asir region, South of Saudi Arabia, we have beautiful mountains, and the temperature is cool throughout the year. There are a lot of high mountains and if you go up these mountains you will see clouds around you,” Aldabbagh informed while drawing attention to some of the existing sites and attractions that are already attracting tourists.
“We also have beautiful historical sites in the South. I would like to mention one of them. It’s called Rijal Almaa, a colourful village and a beautiful place to visit. Saudi has 13 different regions and each of the regions has a different topography. We are not all deserts. We have deserts, we have mountains, we have sea, and so much more,” he added.