Visitors to Saudi Arabia are predicted to increase 38% from 15.5 million in 2019 to 21.3 million by 2024, according to new research by Colliers International, commissioned by Arabian Travel Market (2020), which takes place at Dubai World Trade Centre from 19—22 April 2020.
The increase may not be unconnected with the new visa policy initiated by the government last year and a number relaxed law.
According to atqnews.com, holders of valid Schengen, UK and US visas of any nationality are allowed into Saudi Arabia without pre-entry visas.
However, visitors wishing to benefit from relaxed visa measures are required to travel on Saudi airlines only.
The General Authority for Civil Aviation (GACA) issued a circular restricting the new measure to people travelling on Saudi Arabian Airlines, Flynass, Flyadeal and SaudiGulf Airlines.
Under the GACA circular, no other Arab or foreign airline is authorised to transport these visitors, who are allowed to enter Saudi Arabia through Jeddah, Dammam and Riyadh international airports only, Sabq reported.
Also, Saudi Arabia decided to let foreign males and females share hotel rooms, as part of a campaign to make the kingdom more appealing to holidaymakers.
Saudi nationals will still be required to show family ID or proof of relationship when checking into hotels, but such documentation will not be required for foreign tourists, the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage confirmed.
The agency added that all women, including Saudis, can book and stay in hotels alone.
The kingdom announced that it would begin accepting tourists from 49 countries as part of an initiative to diversify its energy-focused economy. Female visitors will not be required to cover themselves head-to-toe, but have been instructed to dress modestly. Alcohol is still strictly prohibited.
A report by salaamgateway.com, states that the increased demand will be driven by an increasing number of GCC residents wishing to visit the kingdom on short city or mini breaks. It will also be bolstered by business travellers extending work trips to explore the Kingdom’s expanding tourism offerings or attend one of the many sporting or cultural events.
Underpinning this trend, the data from Colliers revealed that over 21.3 million visitors were estimated to visit the country by 2024.
Danielle Curtis, Exhibition Director ME, Arabian Travel Market, said: “As Saudi Arabia continues to reduce its reliance on oil, increasing tourism arrivals is becoming instrumental in the country’s economic diversification, and at ATM, we are witnessing this growth firsthand, with the total number of exhibitors from the Kingdom increasing 45% year-on-year between 2018 and 2019.
“With an ambition to increase inbound tourism to 100 million by 2030, Saudi Arabia no longer wants to be viewed as solely a religious destination for the world’s Muslim community, or a corporate destination as one of the richest countries in the world. It has an incredible landscape, with diverse regions and an array of tourism offerings for leisure travellers.”
In line with growing tourism numbers, the global hotel industry has gained a renewed interest in Saudi Arabia with a number of international and regional brands looking to expand their presence across the Kingdom.
According to the latest data from STR, 79,864 hotel rooms are expected to be added to the Kingdom’s existing inventory by 2025, with the majority of rooms (34,270) in Makkah, followed by Jeddah and Riyadh with 14,525 and 11,632 new rooms, respectively.
Hotels in Riyadh witnessed a strong year in 2019, with RevPAR growing 5.2% following a 9.2% increase in occupancy and -3.6% decline in ADR. In Q4, Riyadh’s RevPAR reached 529.33 SAR – the highest it has been since 2014.
“While, this new supply may place additional competitive pressure on hotels’ performance across the country, the projected growth in visitor numbers over the next four years is expected to continue to boost occupancy levels throughout 2020 and well beyond,” said Curtis.
Following the introduction of the new tourist visa, which allows visitors from 49 countries to apply for an e-visa or receive a visa on arrival – the Kingdom has developed a two-phase tourism strategy in line with Vision 2030.
Phase one – 2019-2022 – will focus on attracting first-time visitors to discover Saudi Arabia, in particular, its pristine beaches, deserts, mountains and heritage sites such as Dir’iyah as well as its packed calendar of sporting and cultural events. While, phase two – 2022-onwards – will focus on the full development of giga projects such as NEOM and the Red Sea Project.
Turning to outbound tourism, Saudi Arabia’s outbound tourism market is expected to reach over US$ 43 billion by 2025, according to the latest data from Renub Research. While family holidays currently dominate the market, a rising generation Z population, who are heavily influenced by the image of a destination – whether it be gastronomy, adventure, culture or overall unique experiences, are expected to change this trend.
Looking ahead to ATM 2020, Saudi exhibitors who will highlight what the Kingdom has to offer and the exciting developments in the pipeline, include Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage, SAUDIA and flynas, among others, with NEOM making its debut. The Saudi pavilion will occupy almost 2,300sqm of stand space this year, an increase of 20% compared to last year.
Curtis added: “As GCC travel and tourism companies and destinations look to attract a larger share of the KSA market, ATM 2020 will introduce the Saudi Arabia Tourism Summit as part of the show’s new forum & networking series. The session will outline what destinations are doing to attract visitors from this key market while also providing an informal networking event for buyers from Saudi Arabia and exhibitors.”
ATM, considered by industry professionals as a barometer for the Middle East and North Africa tourism sector, welcomed almost 40,000 people to its 2019 event with representation from 150 countries. With over 100 exhibitors making their debut, ATM 2019 showcased the largest ever exhibition from Asia.
Adopting Events for Tourism Growth as the official show theme, ATM 2020 will build on the success of this year’s edition with a host of seminar sessions discussing the impact events have on tourism growth in the region while inspiring the travel and hospitality industry about the next generation of events.