Tourism official: Saudi Arabia to be next global tourist hotspot

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Jeddah - Yasmine El Tohamy - RIYADH: Saudi Arabia is setting out to attract more than 30 million pilgrims and 100 million tourists every year as part of its ambitious Vision 2030 economic reform plan, a major investment forum has been told.

The untapped potential of the tourism sector lies at the heart of this transformation program, promising not only economic prosperity and diversification, but also a cultural renaissance and heritage enrichment.

Saudi Minister of Transport and Logistics Saleh bin Nasser Al-Jasser recently told a session of the Saudi-European Investment Forum in Riyadh: “The Kingdom aims to increase the number of Hajj and Umrah pilgrims to over 30 million and tourists to more than 100 million annually in alignment with Vision 2030 goals.”

He said that Saudi Arabia is set to invest SR1.6 trillion ($400 billion) through partnerships with the private sector and various countries, adding that the focus is on enhancing quality of life, and connecting services with individuals without replicating traditional models.

“Over the next 10 years, we will make investments totaling SR1.6 trillion through partnerships with the private sector and various countries. We have also developed two crucial aviation centers, supported the needs of our citizens, and connected the Kingdom to the world through 250 tourist destinations,” he said.

This approach has attracted both tourists and investors, reshaping the nation’s identity as a prominent global destination, according to the recently launched ASFAR, the Saudi Tourism Investment Co.

In a statement to Arab News, ASFAR said the Kingdom is blessed with a variety of natural wonders, ranging from the Red Sea coastline to awe-inspiring deserts and luscious green mountains.

“These treasures are not just geographic; they are a testament to our rich heritage and vibrant culture. It is our responsibility to showcase these gems to the world, inviting travelers to experience the hospitality, warmth, and grandeur of Saudi Arabia and its people,” the statement added.

The recent launch of ASFAR by the Public Investment Fund has given new impetus to the Kingdom’s hospitality drive.

ASFAR aims to promote the growth of the tourism industry and chart a new course for its future.

“We see it as a multifaceted jewel, capable of sparking a ripple effect across various industries, from job creation to cultural exchange. We envision a future where every corner of our country boasts world-class resorts, luxury hotels, and unique cultural experiences that leave visitors enchanted,” the statement said.

It said Saudi Arabia’s hotel segment is projected to generate revenues of $2.5 billion this year, a figure expected surge to more than $3 billion by 2027.

“This underscores the abundant potential within the hospitality industry, promising a wealth of opportunities for both investors and the Kingdom itself,” said ASFAR.

Saudi Arabia’s rich cultural heritage, dramatic landscapes, and tradition of hospitality, along with its ambitious initiatives, have been pivotal to driving the country’s transformation as a global hub for tourists, culture aficionados, and entertainment enthusiasts.

“We collectively embarked on a mission to restore prominent heritage and archaeological sites to showcase our historical treasures to a global audience seamlessly combining our cultural legacy with modern experiences through extensive infrastructure, unique amenities, and exceptional connectivity,” added ASFAR.

Saudi Arabia has further cemented its position as an investment hub. Several global hospitality brands, and local hotel chains and food and beverage networks, have established their presence, elevating the standards of the tourism and hospitality industries.

As a key driver of Saudi Arabia's tourism aspirations, ASFAR co-invests with the public and private sector to harness the potential of the hospitality, retail, F&B, and entertainment sectors, all of which constitute the cornerstone of Vision 2030’s strategic initiatives.

The company endeavors to sustainably bolster the nation’s economic diversification and employment generation, while enhancing the quality of life of residents and visitors.

Realizing the immense potential of heritage tourism, Saudi Arabia is investing heavily in the preservation, development, and promotion of its cultural remnants and historical traditions.

The Kingdom seeks to attract entertainment seekers through developments such as Diriyah and AMAALA, which support the Vision 2030 objectives to promote ecotourism, adventure tourism, and wellness tourism.

Saudi Arabia is also capitalizing on its natural beauty by developing world-class tourist destinations with modern amenities, as exemplified by developments, such as NEOM and the Red Sea Project, with environmental sustainability at the core.

“We are firmly committed to leaving a positive legacy. We deeply respect the local communities and the environment that surround our projects. Rather than merely developing, we celebrate these resources, ensuring that our projects not only preserve but enhance the local ecosystems,” said ASFAR.

Saudi Arabia ranked first among Arab nations for inbound visitors with more than 18 million travelers visiting the Kingdom in the first nine months of 2022, according to UN World Tourism Organization data.

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