The ambitious plan aims to diversify the nation’s oil-dominated economy
Saudi Arabia has pledged to be as “agile as possible” with the trade in a bid to boost visitor numbers as part of its Vision 2030 initiative.
The ambitious plan, aimed at diversifying the nation’s oil-dominated economy, includes six ‘giga-projects’ with a combined cost of around US$800 billion and a target of attracting 100 million domestic and international tourist visits a year by 2030.
Saudi Tourism Authority’s chief executive Fahd Hamidaddin said he is “very confident” the Kingdom can achieve this goal with the support of the trade.
“There is no success without our trade partners, it’s as simple as that,” he said, speaking at the 2022 World Travel Market in London. “We have helped our trade partners to promote the destination and have signed up strategic multi-country deals to help them get referrals. We have lots of offerings because we realise our growth is only going to come through our partners.”
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Hamidaddin noted that Wizz Air’s expansion from Europe to Saudi Arabia, announced in August 2022, saw the airline add 20 new routes from airports across the continent to Saudi. The increase in capacity is expected to bring in more than one million tourists next year.
“That expansion is part of a wider effort to improve air connectivity to Saudi,” he said. “As a new destination we are trying to be very agile and responsive to the global travel dynamics.”
As part of its Vision 2030 strategy, Saudi also wants to enhance its reputation as a cruise destination, with the aim of welcoming 1.3 million cruise passengers within the next decade.
Hamidaddin said there are “multiple components and pillars” that form the nation’s cruise sector growth plan, including developing its homeport in Jeddah and developing “rich, authentic and diverse” shore experiences at multiple destinations.
“We want to reimagine what cruise lines could look like, because the Red Sea deserves an offering like no other,” he added.
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The tourism chief is confident that Europe's cost-of-living crisis won’t dampen Saudi’s progress in the tourism sector, as he believes demand will outweigh economic pressures. More than 150,000 leisure tourists visited Saudi from the UK alone in the past year.
“I think tourism will continue to grow, even if it faces challenges; travel is no longer viewed simply as a luxury like it used to be, but instead as a necessity,” he said. “Demand is only growing among the younger generation and I think the UK will weather this economic phase and recover.
“We are addressing the cost-of-living issue by focusing on more low-cost flights from Europe [such as Wizz Air] and we are always keen to hear recommendations from the trade to be as agile as possible.”
Sustainability is key to Vision 2030, said Hamidaddin, with the country “committed” to achieving net zero by 2050 in line with the rest of the world.
“Some say we have big resources, I say we have bigger responsibilities,” he added. “I would urge people to visit Saudi and see our sustainability efforts for themselves.”