Saudi Arabia has much to offer in terms of adventure, culture and heritage - until recently, it was largely unexplored by international visitors. The country is in a unique position and has enormous potential as a tourist destination, particularly for travellers looking to journey off the beaten track.
We spoke to Fahd Hamidaddin, Chief Executive Officer of Saudi Tourism Authority (STA), for more insight into the destination. "Our goal is to achieve 100 million international and domestic visits per year by 2030. We opened our doors to international tourists for the first time in September 2019, and by the time the borders were restricted in March due to the pandemic, we had already issued more than 400,000 tourism visas. This made Saudi the fastest-growing tourist destination in the world, according to the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) Economic Impact Report," Hamidaddin tells TTN.
"Saudi Arabia is the ideal destination for travellers interested in heritage, nature, culture and adventure who seek to discover hidden treasures and enjoy an authentically Arabian experience."
Saudi is a land of diversity, beauty and a richness of culture with a multitude of offerings and experiences appealing to all types of travellers. "As a leisure destination, Saudi has much to offer travellers seeking an authentically Arabian experience, whether you're an adventure seeker, a history and heritage enthusiast or a nature lover. It's also a vibrantly contemporary destination, with all the lifestyle amenities you would expect from a modern city - great restaurants, shopping and recreational areas that truly offers something for everyone.
"Religious visitation has been and is an important part of our duty. Each year, Saudi Arabia hosts millions of pilgrims for Umrah and Hajj, which we will continue to do proudly. We are also hoping to encourage religious visitors to extend their trip to Saudi and explore some of the other cultural treasures that the country has to offer."
"Saudi is very accessible to travellers from around the world and lies within an eight-hour flight of more than 80 per cent of the global population"
– Fahd Hamidaddin
Saudi contains five UNESCO heritage sites including Al Diriyah, the ancient Nabatean site of AlUla and the Jeddah Historical District. The Kingdom is also home to a variety of natural attractions, from majestic views and cool breezes from Abha on the edge of the Sarwat Mountains to the beaches of the Red Sea, to the shifting sands of the Empty Quarter.
"Adventure seekers can hike the Al Wahbah volcanic crater outside Taif, quad bike through Riyadh's red sand dunes, or scuba dive in the Red Sea.
"The generous treatment of guests is foundational to Arabian culture and all our visitors will enjoy the warm hospitality for which Saudi is renowned."
'Saudi Summer' was the Kingdom's largest ever domestic tourism campaign and was designed to encourage Saudis and other local residents to explore the country.
The campaign was launched following extensive research by STA earlier in the year, which revealed that 57 per cent of Saudi residents were concerned about travelling on holiday by plane; but 85 per cent were still planning to take a break of around ten days this year while 78 per cent expressed curiosity in exploring their country.
"We partnered with 90 businesses from across the industry, including hotels, tour operators and destination management companies, to develop 100 tourism packages for families, large groups and solo travellers," says Hamidaddin.
The campaign was launched at the end of June and ran until the end of September. Within this period, overall tourist spending across our target destinations increased by 33 per cent compared to the same period last year.
The campaign promoted a variety of destinations which, together, showcased the variety that Saudi has to offer – from pristine white sands along the Red Sea coast, to majestic views and cool breezes from Abha on the edge of the Sarwat Mountains, to heritage and history at Riyadh's Old Town to the historic coastal city of Jeddah.
"We encouraged Saudis and expats to explore 10 unique destinations along the Red Sea coast – Jeddah, King Abdullah Economic City (KAEC), Abha, Tabuk, Khobar, Ahsa, Al Baha, Al Taif, Yanbu, Umluj; as well as Dammam and Riyadh.
"Our offer focuses on delivering authentically Arabian adventure, culture and heritage underpinned by remarkable hospitality. Geographically, we believe that our offer will resonate most strongly with Western travellers particularly Europeans; Asia, including high-growth, high-volume markets such as India and China; and the Middle East, with a focus on neighbouring GCC countries. Saudi is very accessible to travellers from around the world and lies within an eight-hour flight of more than 80 per cent of the global population."
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