White is the new black: Tourism is Saudi’s new ‘white oil’

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White oil - ATM 2019

According to tourism experts at ATM 2019, Saudi Arabia’s USD 25 billion ‘white oil’ market is the key to economic diversification.

In a panel discussion at the most recent ATM, representatives from Saudia Private Aviation (SPA), Dur Hospitality, Colliers International MENA, Marriott International, Jabal Omar Development Company and Saudi General Investment Authority, discussed tourism opportunities for the Kingdom.

Industries within the Kingdom (in direct contact with tourists) are expected to generate more than USD 25bn this year – approximately 3.3% of Saudi Arabia’s GDP.

“It will market itself”

Reema Al Mokhtar, head of destination marketing, Jabal Omar Development Company, said: “Our country has beautiful geographic diversity and a host of cultural attractions so, once visitors come into the kingdom and see the different projects lined up for them, I think it will market itself.”

Saudi Arabia - White oil ATM 2019
Delegates at the panel discussion, ATM 2019

Domestic trips are projected to rise by 8% in 2019, while inbound visits from international markets are expected to grow by 5.6% per year, according to research conducted by Colliers on behalf of ATM 2019. In total, Saudi Arabia’s number of tourist trips is on course to hit 93.8 million by 2023, up from 64.7 million in 2018.

The panellists also agreed that ‘giga’ developments will prove crucial in helping to meet the economic diversification targets set out in Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030.

“Earth shattering”

Dr Badr Al Badr, CEO, Dur Hospitality, said: “We’ve been in the hospitality sector for 42 years and we’ve never seen anything like this. What’s happening now is earth-shattering. The change of mindset in terms of opening up this country for visitors – whether for religious or general tourism – is definitely something to be celebrated.”

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