Saudi Arabia’s travel and tourism sector is expected to contribute $70.9 billion in total to the country’s GDP in 2019 while international visitors are set to rise steadily to 2023, according to new research.
Ahead of the Arabian Travel Market (ATM), which is being held in Dubai later this month, Colliers said international arrivals to Saudi Arabia are expected to increase 5.6 percent per year from 17.7 million in 2018 to 23.3 million in 2023.
It said religious tourism is expected to remain the bedrock of the sector over the next decade, with a goal of attracting 30 million pilgrims to the kingdom by 2030, an increase of 11 million from the 19 million Hajj and Umrah pilgrims that visited the country in 2017.
Danielle Curtis, exhibition director ME, Arabian Travel Market, said: “More relaxed access to visas, through online portals such as the ‘Sharek’ and the growth of the Umrah plus market – combining religious and leisure travel – are expected to be key drivers in the growth of international tourism in the kingdom.”
Vision 2030 has set aside $64 billion to invest in culture, leisure and entertainment projects over the next decade, which will significantly add to the attractiveness of the country as a touristic destination, according to another report by Savills.
The first phase of the Red Sea project, which is estimated to grow the kingdom’s GDP by $5.86 billion and will consist of an airport, marinas, up to 3,000 hotel rooms and various recreational activities, is also expected to complete during 2022.
Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund has also announced the development of Amaala, a new ultra-luxury tourism megaproject which is earmarked for completion in 2028.
“Saudi Arabia will see a vast expansion of its hotel and resort inventory during 2019, with over 9,000 keys of three, four and five-star international supply expected to enter the market despite major cities such as Riyadh and Jeddah experiencing an overall drop in ADR during 2018," said Curtis.
“While, this new supply will place additional competitive pressure on hotels performance across the country, the projected growth in visitor numbers in both the domestic and international markets is expected to boost occupancy levels throughout 2019,” she added.
The upbeat tourism forecast is also being driven by domestic tourism with the number of local tourist trips inside Saudi Arabia exceeding 47 million in 2018. The latest research from Colliers forecasts this figure to increase 8 percent per year to 70.5 million by 2023.
“Plans are already afoot in Saudi, to achieve the projected increase in domestic visitors, with the kingdom’s Vision 2030 blueprint forecast to double the number of UNESCO heritage sites and increase household spending on cultural and entertainment activities inside the country from 2.9 percent to 6 percent,” added Curtis.
ATM will take place at Dubai World Trade Centre from April 27 – May 1.
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