Data from the World Travel and Tourism Council has revealed that Saudi Arabia’s travel and tourism sector is expected to contribute USD 70.9 billion (SAR 263.1 billion) in total to the country’s GDP in 2019. Additionally, international arrivals to Saudi Arabia are expected to increase by 5.6% per year from 17.7 million in 2018 to 23.3 million in 2023.
Religious tourism is also expected to remain the bedrock of the sector over the next decade, with a goal of attracting 30 million pilgrims to the Kingdom by 2030, an increase of 11 million from the 19 million Hajj and Umrah pilgrims that visited the country in 2017.
This recent research was prepared in line with this year’s Arabian Travel Market (ATM), which will be held at the Dubai World Trade Centre from 28 April – 1 May 2019.
“We are witnessing this growth first hand”
Danielle Curtis, exhibition director ME, Arabian Travel Market, said: “At ATM, we are witnessing this growth first hand with the total number of delegates arriving from Saudi Arabia increasing 42% between 2017 and 2018, while 33% of delegates, exhibitors and attendees were interested in doing business with the Kingdom.
“More relaxed access to visas, through online portals such as the ‘Sharek’ and the growth of the Umrah plus market – combining religious and leisure travel – are expected to be key drivers in the growth of international tourism in the Kingdom.”
Vision 2030 has set aside USD 64bn to invest in culture, leisure and entertainment projects over the next decade, which will significantly add to the attractiveness of the country as a touristic destination, according to a recent report from real estate firm Savills.
The first phase of the Red Sea project, which is estimated to grow the kingdom’s GDP by USD 5.86bn (SAR22 billion) and will consist of an airport, marinas, up to 3,000 hotel rooms and various recreational activities, is expected to complete during 2022.
“A vast expansion”
Curtis added: “Saudi Arabia will see a vast expansion of its hotel and resort inventory during 2019, with over 9,000 keys of three, four and five-star international supply expected to enter the market despite major cities such as Riyadh and Jeddah experiencing an overall drop in ADR during 2018.
“While, this new supply will place additional competitive pressure on hotels performance across the country, the projected growth in visitor numbers in both the domestic and international markets is expected to boost occupancy levels throughout 2019.”