Saudi tourism sector set to shine, says CEO of STA


RIYADH: Visitors to Saudi Arabia are expected to double, according to a recent statement made by the Saudi Tourism Authority to AlArabiya on the sidelines of a travel trade event in London.

Fahd Hamidaddin, CEO of the STA, said on Wednesday that the Riyadh Season had increased the rate of visits to the Kingdom by 30 percent in 2019, with this number expected to double after the launch of new giga-projects.

The prediction was made at the World Travel Market, the biggest travel trade event since 2019, which opened yesterday in London, with over 100 countries in attendance at the ExCeL Center in the east of the capital.

Welcoming a new era of tourism after the devastating effects and challenges posed by the pandemic, Hamidaddin pointed out the 60 percent rate of vaccination in the Kingdom.

The Saudi health application “Tawakkalna” has become the first linked with the International Air Transport Association.

Some 450,000 tourist visas were issued between the launch of the program in 2019 and the advent of the pandemic, targeting 49 countries in the initial stage.

The authority facilitated access to tourist visas electronically or through entry points to the Kingdom within specific regulatory controls.

Performance indicators were set up to keep pace with the ambitious target to raise the number of annual visits to 100 million by 2030, 55 million of which are international with the remaining 45 million coming from domestic travel, including Umrah, visiting relatives and for business purposes, Hamidaddin said.

This is expected to provide 1 million job opportunities and an increase of 10 percent of the country’s GDP.

“Discover Saudi” was launched in 2019 as part of a SR1 billion ($226 million) investment to drive tourism development in the Kingdom, and is expected to complement the goal of welcoming over 100 million visitors by 2030.

Tourism is one of the pillars of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 to contribute to diversifying the economy, attracting investments, increasing sources of income, and providing job opportunities for citizens.

Marketing and promotional campaigns for tourist destinations in the Kingdom have been launched, the last of which was the “Summer of Saudi Arabia” program, which was launched by the “Spirit of Saudi Arabia” platform under the slogan “Our Summer, Your Mood,” to promote 11 tourist destinations until the end of September. More than 500 tourist experiences were provided by 250 private sector partners.