Saudi Arabia received 7.8 Million tourists during the first quarter of 2023, bringing in revenues of almost $10 Billion and achieving 2nd place globally in the growth rate of international tourists.
This figure not only signifies a 64% increase compared to the same period in 2019 but also places Saudi Arabia as the second-fastest growing tourism destination globally.
Balancing the Books
The increase in tourism not only translated into more revenue but also led to a positive shift in the country’s balance of payments for the tourism sector.
For Q1 2023, Saudi Arabia posted a surplus of 22.8 billion riyals, a sharp turnaround from the deficit of 1.6 billion riyals recorded in the same period the previous year.
The National Tourism Development Strategy
The National Tourism Development Strategy, initiated by the Ministry of Tourism, has played a significant role in the sector’s growth. The strategy aims to attract 100 million new visits, contribute 10% to the national GDP, and create 1 million new jobs in the sector by 2030.
The Future of Saudi Tourism
The World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) predicts that the country’s travel and tourism sector will grow an average of 11% annually over the next decade, making it the Middle East’s fastest-growing market.
By 2032, the sector’s contribution to Saudi Arabia’s GDP could reach nearly 635 billion riyals, representing 17.1% of the Kingdom’s total economy.
Saudi Giga Projects
Saudi Giga Projects represent a groundbreaking initiative aimed at transforming the kingdom’s landscape on an unprecedented scale. Saudi Giga Projects, including NEOM, Red Sea Global, and Diriyah, epitomize the kingdom’s ambitious vision for the future.
NEOM, a futuristic city, pioneers cutting-edge technology and sustainability. The Red Sea Project focuses on luxury tourism, emphasizing environmental preservation. Diriyah aims to restore historical significance, showcasing Saudi Arabia’s rich heritage.
These initiatives underline the nation’s commitment to innovation, economic diversification, and creating world-class destinations, shaping the kingdom’s landscape on an unprecedented scale.
Saudi Vision 2030 Milestones
In 2023, the Kingdom has set its sights on attracting 30 million tourists. Ahmed Al-Khateeb, Minister of Tourism for Saudi Arabia, expressed optimism about achieving this target and believes that 100 million visitors by the end of the decade is “very doable.”
Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund established the Saudi Tourism Investment Company, or Asfar, in July 2022. Asfar aims to support the sector’s growth by investing in new tourism projects and developing destinations with hospitality, retail, and food and beverage offerings.
This presents a unique opportunity for investors to capitalize on a high-growth market.
Saudi Arabia is investing heavily in its aviation sector to ensure it can accommodate the targeted number of international tourists over the coming decade.
The new national airline, Riyadh Air, aims to connect to over 100 destinations worldwide by 2030. A new six-runway airport will be opened in Riyadh’s capital, designed to accommodate up to 120 million travelers by 2030.
Public-private partnerships play a crucial role in addressing cybersecurity challenges. The private sector, with its wealth of expertise and information, and the public sector must work hand in hand to protect critical infrastructure and ensure the safe operation of the digital landscape.
The Road Ahead
Saudi Arabia’s journey to becoming a leading global tourism destination is underway. With its strategic investments, robust infrastructure developments, and a vision to attract 100 million visitors annually by 2030, the future of Saudi Arabia’s tourism sector shines bright.