Holidaying in Saudi Arabia

By | Category: Travel destinations

Coinciding this week with the ATM 2019, travel trade event being held in Dubai this week, Saudi Arabia is making a concerted effort to encourage us to holiday in the country.

Holy Mosque
The Holy Mosque in Mecca which is the biggest tourist attraction. But what of non-religious tourism in the country?

You might think that the main attraction of visitor numbers to Saudi would be religious ones with pilgrimages to Mecca. And you would be right.

That is part of the problem that the country faces. Pilgrimages take visitors largely to one place whilst this huge country has attractions that few pilgrims and other visitors see. International arrivals to Saudi Arabia are expected to increase 5.6% per year from 17.7 million in 2018 to 23.3 million in 2023 but most of these visitors will be for religious tourism and that is expected to remain the bedrock of the sector.

At present, tourism is driven by domestic visitors with the number of local tourist trips inside Saudi Arabia exceeding 47 million in 2018. The latest research from the research company, Colliers, forecasts an increase of 8% per year to 70.5 million by 2023.

The Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage, being the main body for co-ordinating tourism to the country, is actively developing non-religious attractions to widen the number of people who might want to holiday there. The country has a blueprint for the future called Vision 2030. Today that subject will be discussed in Dubai with the Saudis calling tourism the “white oil” of the future.

The country wants to double the number of UNESCO heritage sites and increase household spending on cultural and entertainment activities inside the country from 2.9% to 6%.

Part of Vision 2030 includes the first phase of a Red Sea project, which is estimated to grow the kingdom’s GDP by US$5.86 billion and which will consist of an airport, marinas, up to 3,000 hotel rooms and various recreational activities. That is expected to be completed in just three years!

Then there is Amaala, a new ultra-luxury tourism megaproject which is due for completion in 2028. This development will add 2,500 hotel rooms for both domestic and international visitors. Just in 2019, over 9,000 hotel rooms of three, four and five-star standard will be opened.

In all the country is planning on spending $64 billion in culture, leisure and entertainment projects over the next decade, a sum that few countries could ever contemplate.

Now all it has to do is to persuade us to holiday there.

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