By Sam Bridge
Despite Covid-19, tourism spending in kingdom shows big rise due to new Saudi Tourism Authority campaign
Saudi Summer, the kingdom’s largest ever domestic leisure tourism campaign, has boosted tourism spending to SR6 billion ($1.6 billion) during the first half of the initiative, it was revealed on Wednesday.
Launched by the Saudi Tourism Authority (STA), spending in the seven weeks since the campaign launch showed an increase of 26 percent over the same period last year.
“Saudi Summer is an invitation to the citizens and residents of Saudi Arabia to explore and get to know their own country better,” said Fahd Hamidaddin, CEO of the STA.
“While we are focusing on providing multiple destinations and experiences for those already in the kingdom, we are also preparing for international tourists to return, so we will be ready to welcome visitors safely again when the time is right.”
Through partnerships with 90 tourism businesses, including hotels, tour operators and destination management companies, the STA said it has developed 100 tourism offers and packages across multiple price points, for families, groups and single travelers.
Spending on recreation and cultural activities exceeded SR1 billion, an increase of 25 percent over 2019. Spending in restaurants amounted to SR3.8 billion, an increase of 38 percent over last year.
Sun and sea destinations, including Umluj, Yanbu and King Abdullah Economic City (KAEC) saw spending increase by 64 percent over the same period last year while peak hotel occupancy rates were above 90 percent and exceeded 95 percent in in Abha, Baha and Taif during the Eid holiday.
By comparison, the UK's economy is expected to lose about £22 billion ($29 billion) this year on the coronavirus-induced collapse of global travel.
International visitor spending could plunge by 78 percent from 2019, equating to a loss of £60 million per day or £420 million a week, the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) predicted in a key report.
The Saudi Summer campaign also includes Saudi Arabia’s first ever leisure cruise offering on the Red Sea. The first passengers will embark on Thursday for a three-day voyage along Saudi Arabia’s western coastline.
“The success of Saudi Summer is boosting the local tourism sector, which suffered during the COVID-19 restrictions, and the broader economy at home,” said Hamidaddin.
“The campaign aims to uncover new destinations for domestic audiences to discover their own country, sometimes for the first time.”
Saudi Arabia, which introduced tourist visas for the first time last year, has unveiled a series of multi-billion dollar tourism projects in a bid to diversify the kingdom's oil-dependent economy.