Tourism spending in Saudi Arabia soars to $7.2bn in first half as visitor numbers surge

Number of inbound visitors up 575 per cent annually in second quarter, Ministry of Investment figures show

Visitors in AlUla, in north-western Saudi Arabia. The tourism ministry is targeting to attract 100 million tourists a year by 2030. Bloomberg
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Spending by international tourists in Saudi Arabia soared to 27 billion riyals ($7.2 billion) in the first six months of 2022 as visitor numbers surged to 46 million, Ministry of Investment figures show.

The number of inbound tourists to Saudi Arabia in the second quarter of 2022 increased annually by 575.4 per cent to 3.6 million, while domestic tourists rose by 42.3 per cent to 21.4 million, the ministry said in latest monthly bulletin.

Inbound tourist spending soared by 570 per cent in the second quarter to 15.7 billion riyals and domestic tourist spending rose by 31.5 per cent in the same period to 22.7 billion riyals, the report said.

“Tourism is one of the most promising sectors in Saudi Arabia, which will contribute to achieving economic diversification,” the ministry said.

“The tourism sector’s targets according to Vision 2030 include attracting 100 million tourists a year, creating 1.6 million jobs and increasing the industry’s contribution to gross domestic product to more than 10 per cent.”

Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest oil exporter, is rapidly transforming its economy as it aims to reduce its dependence on oil, nurture domestic industries, boost jobs and diversify revenue.

The kingdom is developing a number of tourism projects, including Neom, a $500 billion futuristic city featuring a nature reserve, coral reefs and heritage sites on several islands along the Red Sea, and Qiddiya, a huge entertainment and sports project in Riyadh.

Tourism is a central plank of the country’s diversification drive. It will be a main non-oil growth driver, providing investment opportunities for private local and international investors as Saudi Arabia aims to attract 100 million visitors per year by 2030, S&P Global Ratings said in a recent report.

Average spending by an international overnight visitor per trip touched 4,380 riyals in the first half of 2022 compared with 4,194 riyals in the corresponding period last year, according to ministry estimates.

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Meanwhile, average spending by a domestic overnight visitor per trip was 1,114 riyals in the first six months of 2022 compared with 1,198 riyals in the same time last year.

Some of the major achievements of Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Tourism this year include the adoption of the tourism law in August, launching a unified platform for tourism and unveiling a digital tourism strategy in the kingdom, according to the report.

The country issued 1.3 million tourist visas between 2019 and October 2022.

The kingdom has also supported more than 235 investors in tourism projects worth 6 billion riyals through the Tourism Development Fund, the report said.

Saudi Arabia's economy is forecast to grow 7.6 per cent this year, after expanding 3.2 per cent last year, according to the latest forecast by the International Monetary Fund.

The kingdom's economy grew by 8.8 per cent in the third quarter of 2022, from the same period a year ago, government data released on Sunday showed.

Updated: December 12, 2022, 6:17 AM