Saudi $45.3 bln tourism market building on potential

Saudi Arabia's $11.6 billion worth of tourism projects currently under way in the country will underscore the strength of the industry

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Saudi Arabia's $11.6 billion worth of tourism projects currently under way in the country will underscore the strength of the industry as the country looks to build on domestic and religious tourism totaling an estimated $45.3 billion at this year’s Arabian Travel Market (ATM) 2015.

Saudi Arabia’s presence at this year’s show will be spread across more than 1,400 square meters of exhibition floor space with 15 participating companies already confirmed including Unique Choice, Al Khozama Management, Rosewood Hotels & Resorts, E Travel Gate, Saudi Commission for Tourism & Antiquities, Flynas, Al Hokair Group and Yrbooking.com.

“If we look just at the kingdom’s list of top 10 tourism and hospitality projects, almost $11.6 billion is being invested into supporting the country’s economic diversification plans, and our partners on the ground are eager to discuss how this year’s ATM can showcase sector growth to more than 33,000 expected participants,” said Nadege Noblet, exhibition manager of Arabian Travel Market, WTM Portfolio, Reed Travel Exhibitions.

According to new MEED intelligence data, Saudi Arabia is capitalizing on both new business and leisure tourism opportunities with 55 planned or under-development projects including four museums/libraries, 39 hotels and resorts, one mall, seven sports stadia/leisure complexes, two theme parks and two convention centers.

The country’s top 10 projects currently under development are valued at just under $11.6 billion, cover a wide range of tourism-related activities from $4400 million investment by Saudi Aramco into 11 stadiums to the next three phases of the Jabal Omar mega development in Makkah, which, upon completion in 2017, will have 40 hotel towers.

Other high-profile projects include the $533 million MKEC Visitor complex, the $450 million Hilton Riyadh Hotel & Resort and $500 million Millennium Jeddah.

Following the announcement late last year by the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities of approval of provisions to issue tourism visas and introduce new regulations to the system, this greatly enhances prospects for future sector development if the proposal achieves final approval.

Industry experts put the estimated value of the Saudi tourism and travel market at$45.3 billion (SR170 billion) in 2014, of which $18.7 billion (SR70 billion) was generated from domestic tourism and almost $27 billion (SAR100 billion) from religious and other tourism.

“The country has a number of important historical sites and places of natural beauty that could be a magnet for tourists from around the world, such as the ruins of Madain Saleh, a Unesco World Heritage site, the stunning Farasan Islands, the mountain city of Taif and Jeddah’s restored old quarter,” said Noblet.

New research released by YouGov in Travel Oracle – KSA Highlights report, highlights the preferences of travellers from the Kingdom, who list good weather (39 percent), reasonable cost (38 percent) and family destination attraction (34 percent) as the top three criteria when selecting a vacation destination.

Popular travel destinations currently include the UAE, visited by one in five Saudi Arabian residents (19 percent) during their last leisure trip, as well as Turkey, Egypt and Jordan.

This article was first published in the Saudi Gazette on Tuesday, March 10, 2015.

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