Visitors to Saudi Arabia spend $7bn in six months

Increasing tourism is part of kingdom's Vision 2030 project to diversify its economy

The Maraya mirrored building in AlUla, Saudi Arabia, where ancient meets modern. Bloomberg
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Visitors to Saudi Arabia spent 27 billion riyals ($7.19 billion) during the first six months of 2022, making tourism one of the kingdom's most promising sectors.

The Ministry of Investment said 3.6 million foreign tourists visited the kingdom during the second quarter of the year, greatly contributing to a plan to diversify sources of income as part of Vision 2030.

Saudi Arabia aims to become a top-five global destination by 2030, as its leadership opens up the country to foreign tourism and investment.

Turki Alalshaikh, chairman of the General Entertainment Authority, said six million people visited the winter festival Riyadh Season 2022 within a month of its launch on October 21.

Saudi Arabia has opened up its borders to international luxury hospitality brands and for the first time welcomed foreign visitors to its ancient heritage sites and pristine coastline, while it builds new wonders for the world to see.

With the addition of worldwide sporting and entertainment events, Saudi Arabia is creating more opportunities for its citizens and foreign tourists to explore.

The country aims to increase the private sector's contribution to gross domestic product to 65 per cent by 2030, up from 40 per cent in 2016, when Saudi Vision 2030 was announced.

It also plans to reduce its economic dependence on the oil industry.

Last week Saudi Arabia announced that it would allow its citizens to operate Airbnb-style property rentals through a new portal similar to the global lettings marketplace.

The Minister of Tourism Ahmed Al Khateeb approved the tourism law on Wednesday.

Saudi men perform a traditional folk dance at the cultural village of Rijal Almaa. Reuters

Tourism equals job opportunities

The kingdom seeks to create a million jobs for young people in tourism by 2030, accounting for 10 per cent of the country's GDP and aims welcoming 100 million tourists.

Mr Al Khateeb said Saudi Arabia would offer investment opportunities worth $6 trillion in the travel and tourism sector.

“We built our tourism industry against the backdrop of a global disaster,” said Mr Al Khateeb, referring to Covid-19 pandemic.

“And we now have $6 trillion of investment opportunities through 2030. Our shared commitment to partnerships will drive the global industry forward. Saudi Arabia is reimagining tourism, making use of the power of partnership and ensuring that no one is left behind.”

He said the country was training 100,000 people ever year to work in the sector and that over the next decade, the tourism industry will create 126 million jobs.

Tourists rock climbing in AlUla

Heritage tourism

In November, Diriyah, birthplace of the kingdom, announced the opening of luxury hotels including Waldorf Astoria Diriyah, Taj hotels, Anantara, Marriott International’s Edition Hotels, Ritz-Carlton hotels and resorts, Address hotels, Oberoi hotels and resorts, and The Langham.

Bujairi Terrace, a luxury dining destination, now overlooks the city's Unesco World Heritage Site.

AlUla has been named one of Conde Nast Traveller's new Seven Wonders of the World.

Saudi Arabia continues to uncover archaeological sites and historical wonders that reveal its pivotal location on ancient trade routes.

On Monday, the kingdom’s Heritage Commission registered 41 new archaeological and historical sites in the National Antiquities Register, adding to 67 discovered in December, bringing the total number of registered archaeological sites across the kingdom to 8,572.

Tour guide Nada Alfuraih inside an 18th century palace in Diriyah, birthplace of Saudi Arabia. AFP

“This is a kingdom that aspires to become one of the top five tourist destinations in the world, welcoming 100 million domestic and international travellers a year,” said Arnold Donald, chairman of World Travel and Tourism Council Global Summit in November.

“This is my third visit to Saudi Arabia within the last 14 months, and each visit has been very impressive when compared to my previous visit. Saudi Arabia’s bold ambitions embody the region’s drive and energy in the travel and tourism sector.”

Updated: January 10, 2023, 4:37 PM