Saudi Arabia’s post-pandemic tourism recovery outpaces rest of G20: Report

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Saudi Arabia topped the list of G20 countries for tourism arrivals in July during a busy summer spell of travel to the country, with figures showing more than double the number of visitors traveling to the Kingdom year-on-year, a meeting of the United Nation’s World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) heard on Monday.

According to the latest UNWTO World Tourism Barometer, revealed during a UNWTO meeting in Bali, Indonesia, the numbers of tourists heading to Saudi Arabia rose by 121 percent in July 2022 compared to July last year, largely in part to the some one million pilgrims who headed to the Kingdom to perform the annual Hajj.

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Saudi’s strong tourism helped the wider Middle East post strong tourism figures in 2022.

The Middle East showed the fastest global recovery of international tourism arrivals in January-July 2022, with arrivals reaching 76 percent of pre-pandemic levels in 2019.

The Middle East saw international arrivals grow almost four times year-on-year in the six-month period (+287 percent), while arrivals exceeded pre-pandemic levels in July (up by three percent).

“Saudi Arabia is the world’s most exciting investment opportunity in tourism and the UNWTO Tourism Barometer has recognized Saudi Arabia's extraordinary +121 percent growth in international tourism in July 2022 compared to July 2019,” Hassan Jannah, Assistant Deputy Minister for Business Intelligence at the Kingdom’s Ministry of Tourism, told Al Arabiya English.

“Our recovery outpaces the recovery of G20 countries, showcasing the success of our continued investment in the sector. Together with our partners, we are building a sustainable and resilient sector that is ripe for investment and bursting with opportunities.”

Cementing Saudi Arabia’s strong tourism presence on the international stage, the Kingdom will host the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) Summit – the leading global travel and tourism conference – in Riyadh between November 28 and December 1.

According to the UNWTO, international tourist arrivals almost tripled in January to July 2022 (+172 percent) compared to the same period of 2021.

This means the sector recovered almost 60 percent of pre-pandemic levels. The steady recovery reflects strong pent-up demand for international travel as well as the easing or lifting of travel restrictions to date (86 countries had no COVID-19 related restrictions as of 19 September 2022).

UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili said: “Tourism continues to recover steadily, yet several challenges remain, from geopolitical to economic. The sector is bringing back hope and opportunity for people everywhere. Now is also the time to rethink tourism, where it is going and how it impacts people and planet.”

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