In terms of tourism, Saudi Arabia is a source country of tourists with a high spending capacity, but it has become aware of the need to develop its own tourism industry and become a destination. The kingdom wants to reduce dependence on hydrocarbons by promoting and diversifying a post-oil economy that will create jobs.
The goal is to attract 100 million tourists a year by 2030. With its tourism development programs, Saudi Arabia will be the world's largest investor in the sector, with planned investments of $810 billion in culture, leisure and entertainment projects. over the next decade. New attractions include Neom, the great sustainable city on the Gulf of Aqaba; Qiddiyah, training city in Riyadh; the Al-Ahsa oasis, and the Red Sea resort islands.
The machinery has been started. The destination has hired Messi as its new tourism ambassador and numerous events are being held such as the Italian Super Cup, the Spanish Super Cup, the Red Sea International Film Festival or the Formula 1 Grand Prix.
The country is a great religious destination, with the pilgrimage to Mecca, but with social limitations, a strict alcohol policy, restrictions on women and allegations of human rights abuses. Now, with the new calendar of events and other actions, Saudi Arabia is making significant moves to open its borders to international tourists.
In 2021, Saudi Arabia took advantage of the Covid-imposed border closures to promote its domestic tourism, which reached a record 62 million visits and 15 million visits to the Red Sea from the region. In terms of recovery, they reached 72% of pre-pandemic levels, with last quarter reaching 130% of pre-pandemic levels.
The pandemic forced public and private entities to work together to save lives at a time when it was needed most. Apps were created, improvements to existing services, and an integrated value chain of testing and quarantine on arrival and hotel check-in was developed. The Saudi government wants to harness these synergies to inspire better collaboration with the private sector and help create a seamless experience for travelers.
It all fits into Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman's "Saudi Vision 2030" strategic reform blueprint. The success of the Transformation Plan will depend on political and social developments in the coming years, but the economic data to boost the tourism sector are very clear.