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Visitors to Saudi Arabia Spent Over $26 Billion in First 9 Months of 2023
Visitors to Saudi Arabia Spent Over $26 Billion in First 9 Months of 2023

Saudi Arabia achieved a new record for spending by foreign visitors to the Kingdom in 2023.

Figures released by the Ministry of Tourism showed that spending by visitors from abroad surpassed 100 Billion Saudi Riyal ($26.6 Billion) during the first 9 months of the year.

The United Nations World Tourism Organization also revealed that Saudi Arabia was the 2nd fastest growing tourist destination in the world in 2023.

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Record Breaking Quarter

Image Credit Red Sea Global

In Quarter 1 of 2023 alone, Saudi Arabia welcomed approximately 7.8 million tourists, demonstrating its strongest quarterly performance ever. This influx represented a growth of 64 percent compared to Q1 2019. 

The tourist numbers translated into an incredible increase in tourism revenue, which tripled to reach SR37 billion ($9.9 billion), marking a 225%  increase compared to Q1 2022.

Image Credit Ministry of Tourism Saudi Arabia

[Image Credit: Ministry of Tourism, Saudi Arabia]

The tourism sector demonstrated a solid and positive trend with a significant 53% growth in Inbound visitor spending increasing from 67.3 Billion SAR in Q1-Q3 2022 to 102.6 Billion SAR in Q1-Q3 2023, indicating an increased inflow of visitors and a related increase in economic contributions.

Saudi Arabia A Rapidly Growing Tourist Destination

Image Credit Ministry of Tourism Saudi Arabia

Reports from the World Tourism Organization confirm that Saudi Arabia is now the fastest-growing tourist destination among the G20 countries. Moreover, it ranks second worldwide regarding the growth rate of incoming tourists. 

This significant growth is primarily attributed to the full recovery of the Kingdom’s tourism sector, which has increased 150 percent compared to pre-COVID-19 levels. The spending exceeded SAR 100 billion, achieving a surplus of SAR 37.8 billion and a growth rate of 72%, compared to the same period in 2022. 

Diversifying the Economy

The substantial rise in tourism revenue underscores its growing importance in the Saudi economy. As part of the Kingdom’s broader strategy to diversify its economy beyond oil, it aims to make tourism a key economic contributor. 

Saudi Arabia has set new ambitious goals with plans to increase the 2030 target to 150 million visitors, an increase from the original goal of 100 million, as stated by the Minister of Tourism and contributing 10 percent to the gross domestic product.

Infrastructure and Accessibility Improvements

Image Credit The PIF

Saudi Arabia’s PIF 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.

Image Credits Retal Development

Saudi Arabia has been making monumental strides in transforming its tourism sector. The nation’s Vision 2030 plan seeks to diversify the economy and reduce the reliance on oil revenues. 

As part of this vision, the country is investing heavily in its tourism sector, aiming to increase the contribution of tourism to its GDP from 3% to 10%. An example of the investment in tourism in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia is the announcement of the new Ritz-Carlton Al Khobar resort.

The announcement of The Ritz-Carlton Al Khobar took place during the Cityscape event in Riyadh in 2023. This resort is a notable contribution to the luxury hospitality sector in Saudi Arabia. The resort’s stunning view of the Arabian Gulf signifies The Ritz-Carlton’s debut in the country’s eastern region.

Upcoming Tourism Projects

Image Credit NEOM

Saudi Arabia’s NEOM has also recently unveiled Norlana, a new luxury world-class Waterfront destination on the beautiful Gulf of Aqaba. 

NORLANA is designed as an exclusive community with an ultra-luxury hotel, deluxe mansions, beachfront villas, residences, a superyacht marina, and a spectacular 18-hole golf course.

Image Credit NEOM

Rapid developments of new Upcoming Hotels have been made in the key tourism destinations of the $500 Billion NEOM Giga project and The Red Sea Global, signifying a flourishing hospitality industry in these regions. 

Image Credit Marriott International

Marriott International is also expanding in Saudi Arabia with 40 planned hotels with more than 11,000 rooms and entry into new luxury destinations such as NEOM and The Red Sea Project

Image Credit Diriyah

Regarding luxurious hospitality services, Marriott International has recently announced that it has begun constructing the new Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Diriyah, which will open in 2026.

Image Credit Diriyah

The five-star hotel is to be located within the $63 Billion Diriyah Giga Project and is due to feature 195 guest rooms and 34 luxury suites. 

Wadi Safar Project

Image Credit Diriyah Company

Known as the ‘Bel Air’ equivalent in Saudi Arabia, Diriyah Company has introduced its latest ultra-luxurious development named Wadi Safar, situated within the $63 Billion Diriyah Giga project. 

This community is set to feature residences at a minimum of $25 million, catering to ultra-high-net-worth individuals with an existing waiting list.

Image Credit Diriyah Company

Wadi Safar, situated west of Diriyah, is not just about luxury homes. The community will also feature a championship golf course, royal diriyah equestrian, and polo club, adding to the allure of this high-end residential project.

The Launch of Riyadh Air

Image Credit Riyadh Air

Saudi Arabia is committed to diversifying its economy and is making great strides in tourism. One key initiative is the PIF-backed Riyadh Air, launched in March 2023. Riyadh Air is a new airline slated to start operations in 2025, aiming to serve over 100 global destinations by 2030.

With these and much more progressive initiatives and strategies, Saudi Arabia is making great strides in tourism. The Kingdom’s commitment to diversifying its economy is evident in its ambitious tourism goals and the significant investments made to achieve them. 

The Impact of Tourism Growth

Image Credit Red Sea Global

The surge in tourism has also positively impacted the non-oil sector in Saudi Arabia. Recent reports indicate that the non-oil private sector is experiencing robust growth, with an impressive expansion in Q4 2023, placing the sector in a favorable position for 2024.

Global Tourism Player

The record-breaking figures of 2023 highlight Saudi Arabia’s successful efforts to diversify its economy and position itself as a key global tourism player. The future looks bright for Saudi Arabia’s tourism sector, promising exciting developments and opportunities in the coming years. 

With continued investment and strategic initiatives, the Kingdom is well on its way to reaching its ambitious tourism goals. 

Keep Reading: Saudi Tourism Revenues Reach $10 Billion Amid Travel Boom of 7.8 Million Tourists

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