Saudi Arabia, a land known for its rich history, stunning landscapes, and vibrant culture, is emerging as a compelling and diverse tourist destination.
As the Kingdom undergoes a transformative journey toward Vision 2030, its tourism sector is experiencing a renaissance, making it an exciting and promising place for travelers worldwide.
To explore the Kingdom’s allure and cultural richness, Al Arabiya English spoke with Stuart McNair, ROAM Managing Director, a leading Destination Management Company with a focus on “wellness, gastronomy, heritage, and culture.”
Cultural treasures and heritage
Saudi Arabia boasts an extraordinary cultural heritage that beckons travelers to explore its ancient roots. One of the most iconic destinations is AlUla, home to the remarkable archaeological site of Hegra. Often referred to as the ‘Saudi Petra,’ this UNESCO World Heritage site features beautifully carved Nabatean tombs that transport visitors to a bygone era.
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Additionally, Riyadh’s National Museum offers a captivating journey through the Kingdom’s history and cultural evolution.
From the mesmerizing deserts to lush oases and pristine coastlines, Saudi Arabia’s natural beauty is a revelation. The Rub’ al Khali, also known as the Empty Quarter, is the largest continuous sand desert globally, inviting adventure enthusiasts for dune bashing and stargazing.
The Red Sea’s azure waters provide a paradise for scuba divers and snorkelers, while the Asir Mountains offer a refreshing escape with their cooler climate and lush landscapes.
Thriving Modernity and Vision 2030
Saudi Arabia’s bustling cities like Riyadh, Jeddah, and Dammam seamlessly blend modernity with tradition. The Kingdom has witnessed a surge in luxury hotel developments, fine dining establishments, and entertainment venues.
The Riyadh Season and Jeddah Season festivals have brought international concerts, sporting events, and cultural exhibitions to Saudi Arabia, enhancing its appeal as a vibrant tourist destination.
A pivotal catalyst for Saudi Arabia’s tourism renaissance is the Vision 2030 initiative. Spearheaded by Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, this visionary plan seeks to diversify the Kingdom’s economy and reduce its reliance on oil.
“Tourism in Saudi Arabia has attracted 40 million tourists and our target is 100-150 million tourists in 2030,” the Crown Prince said in a statement.
Tourism plays a central role in the Kingdom’s transformation, with ambitious goals to welcome millions of tourists annually and create numerous job opportunities in the sector.
According to the Saudi central bank, a significant 225 percent growth of tourism revenue has been registered this year compared to the first quarter of 2022.
The Kingdom is investing heavily in tourism infrastructure, with projects like the Qiddiya Entertainment City, NEOM, and the Red Sea Project set to redefine luxury travel.
These ambitious ventures promise world-class attractions, eco-friendly resorts, and cultural experiences that cater to a wide range of interests.
As a move to welcome more tourists, the minister of tourism revealed that the scheme for e-visas were expanded to eight new countries. “Saudi Arabia takes another step forward in opening its doors to the world and offering an easier and simplified travel experience for all visitors to the Kingdom,” confirmed Saudi Minister of Tourism Ahmad al-Khateeb in a tweet.
Earlier this year, the Saudi Crown Prince has launched the general plan for the Soudah Peaks project “Qimma al Soudah” which will enhance the Kingdom’s position on the global mountain tourism map, and will contribute to providing qualitative opportunities to develop the tourism sector and luxury hospitality services in line with the goals of Vision 2030.
From the highest peak in #SaudiArabia, at 3,015 meters above sea level, #SoudahPeaks will offer luxury hospitality and authentic experiences.— قمم السودة (@Soudahpeaks) September 26, 2023
Learn more about the six zones of the project. pic.twitter.com/c6y4Zell1q
Approach to luxury travel
Saudi Arabia, since opening its doors to tourism in 2019, has presented a realm of luxury travel opportunities.
According to McNair, the Kingdom is on the cusp of significant change for Saudi and international travelers alike, and the way ROAM chooses to go about it is by showcasing the diverse landscapes and cultural heritage.
“We want to build connections with new people, places, and experiences. We aim to feed their curiosity about their own country by catering to families, as well as to friendship groups and couples, that highlight the beauty and adventure on offer in KSA,” highlighted McNair.
“The market has huge potential for all Saudis to gain new experiences, some of which have been on their doorstep for some time. They just haven’t known it yet,” he added.
“We employ some of the brightest young talents in the country, and encourage the youth and local communities to engage with us in this exciting new sector, and our headcount will continue to grow to match our vision,” McNair said.
“We actively foster partnerships with local artisans and talents in Saudi Arabia. We see them as potential collaborators. Building relationships within the local tourism community and working with like-minded brands help realize the Kingdom’s 2030 vision.”
Innovation and sustainability
As for innovation and sustainability, they are pivotal pillars in our approach to luxury travel, emphasized McNair. “We believe innovation comes from our sustainable business practices, which are reflected in our offerings including the preservation of wildlife and habitats, preserving Saudi heritage, and reducing ROAM’s impact on the planet by investing in renewable energy and constantly addressing unavoidable carbon emissions.”
Furthermore, the Saudi Ministry of Tourism and Saudi Tourism Authority have made a significant leap in digital tourism by introducing NFT souvenirs during the 116th UNWTO Executive Council session in Jeddah held in June last year.
As Saudi Arabia’s Committed to pioneering futuristic tourism offerings, the Saudi Tourism Minister al-Khateeb reiterated: “As technology advances, it is important that we remain at the forefront of innovation.”
“Our tourism infrastructure is designed to embrace new trends, and digital transformation is one of our top priorities. The NFTs serve as a bold statement to the world that Saudi Arabia is developing an unparalleled tourism sector where travelers can expect to see and experience unique and futuristic offerings,” the minister said.
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