Saudi Arabia’s tourism sector will contribute $70.9 billion to the country’s GDP this year, according to the World Travel and Tourism Council.
Data released by Colliers International ahead of this year’s Arabian Travel Market (ATM) has also revealed that international arrivals to Saudi Arabia are expected to increase 5.6 per cent, per year, from 17.7 million in 2018 to 23.3 million in 2023. Religious tourism will be key over the next decade, with a goal of attracting 30 million pilgrims to the Kingdom by 2030 – an 11 million jump on the 19 million Hajj and Umrah pilgrims that visited the country in 2017.
Exhibition director ME, ATM, Danielle Curtis remarked: “At ATM, we are witnessing this growth first hand with the total number of delegates arriving from Saudi Arabia increasing 42 per cent between 2017 and 2018, while 33 per cent of delegates, exhibitors and attendees were interested in doing business with the Kingdom.”
She added: “More relaxed access to visas, through online portals such as the ‘Sharek’ and the growth of the Umrah plus market – combining religious and leisure travel – are expected to be key drivers in the growth of international tourism in the Kingdom.”
Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 has set aside $64 billion for culture, leisure and entertainment projects over the next decade.
Phase one of the highly anticipated Red Sea project is expected to reach completion in 2022. The project is estimated to boost the Kingdom’s GDP by $5.86 billion and will comprise an airport, marinas, up to 3,000 hotel rooms and various recreational activities.
In 2018, the country’s Public Investment Fund announced the development of Amaala, a new ultra-luxury tourism megaproject, scheduled to launch in 2028. This project will contribute 2,500 hotel rooms to the country’s portfolio.
Curtis said: “Saudi Arabia will see a vast expansion of its hotel and resort inventory during 2019, with over 9,000 keys of three-, four- and five-star international supply expected to enter the market despite major cities such as Riyadh and Jeddah experiencing an overall drop in ADR during 2018. While, this new supply will place additional competitive pressure on hotels performance across the country, the projected growth in visitor numbers in both the domestic and international markets is expected to boost occupancy levels throughout 2019.”
During this year’s ATM, Saudi exhibitors will include The Red Sea Development Company, Saudi Arabian Airlines, Makarem Hotels, AlfaOne Concierge and the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage. A seminar entitled ‘Why Tourism is Saudi’s new White Oil’ will be held on the Global Stage on April 29, at 14:50 until 15:50.
And while international tourism is on the rise, domestic tourism contributes to the positive figures. The number of local tourist trips inside Saudi Arabia exceeded 47 million in 2018, and Colliers International forecasts this figure to increase by eight per cent 70.5 million by 2023.
Curtis said: “Plans are already afoot in Saudi to achieve the projected increase in domestic visitors, with the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 blueprint forecast to double the number of UNESCO heritage sites and increase household spending on cultural and entertainment activities inside the country from 2.9 per cent to six per cent.
“Meanwhile, the Quality of Life Vision Realisation Programme (VRP) and the General Entertainment Authority are both working to create new attractions and recreational activities within the country,” she concluded.