Strong demand seen for Saudi Arabia
There is an increase in demand for inbound tourism to Saudi Arabia, especially from European and CIS countries. This is driven, in part, by the concerted effort of the kingdom’s tourism industry to promote the country’s many attractions as well as a range of visa reforms that have eased access to the kingdom.
2023 is gearing up to be yet another successful year for travel and tourism. As the leading travel company from Saudi Arabia, we are already seeing strong demand across all our businesses: our consumer segment; Almosafer Business, our corporate and government segment; Discover Saudi, our destination management company; and Mawasim, our Hajj and Umrah tour operator.
MICE continues to be a key contributor in driving inbound tourism, with events such as Saudi Seasons, Saudi Cup and Formula 1 drawing regional and international visitors. There has also been a dramatic uplift in religious travel to the kingdom, particularly from Indonesia and Pakistan.
For domestic tourism in the kingdom, demand remains strong, even as international borders have reopened – over 40 per cent of our bookings from our consumer segment is for domestic travel. The two holy cities of Makkah and Madinah are amongst the most popular destinations for travellers all year round.
The appetite for outbound travel from Saudis has been phenomenal and shows no signs of waning. We are seeing strong early demand for the 2023 summer season. Saudis are continuing to choose to spend more on meaningful and luxury experiences, with a notable surge in bookings to beach destinations such as the Maldives and Greece. The cities of Dubai and Abu Dhabi maintain their positions as leading destinations for Saudis while other nearby destinations such as Qatar have seen a considerable rise in bookings, reflecting the increased appetite for short trips.
For summer destinations, we are currently seeing searches and bookings for Thailand, which now has a 30-day visa exemption for Saudi nationals, as travellers turn to this Southeast Asian destination for their summer getaway. Turkey’s popularity as a travel destination for the summer is also on the rise, while European destinations including France, Italy, Austria and Spain are also trending.
What is clear from these trends is that the momentum from 2022, in terms of travel demand, is continuing on into 2023 and beyond. The kingdom’s travel and tourism industry is on an incredible trajectory and Almosafer, as the national champions of tourism in Saudi Arabia, will continue to meet the travel needs of the kingdom.
* Muzzammil is Chief Executive Officer of Almosafer (stand ME4150)