“In the old world of tourism, the DMO was the gatekeeper of knowledge and knowledge was power. In the new world, knowledge is empowerment” - Fahd Hamidaddin
‘Journeys in Arabia’ embraces the travel trade
The recently concluded ‘Journeys in Arabia’ webinar was Saudi Tourism Authority’s (STA) first-ever travel trade engagement, an exclusive online event curated especially for partners around the globe.Through the event, STA established Saudi Arabia as a “country of natural beauty, great diversity and hidden treasures of lush valleys, clear seas, rugged mountains, of 10,000 ancient sites and stunning modern architecture.”
The programme brought together key market players including high-level delegation from STA for an expert panel discussion and trade partners from around the globe. In a welcome address, Fahd Hamidaddin, CEO, Saudi Tourism Authority, said: “As travel routes begin to reopen within the region and beyond, we are seeing a huge enthusiasm for travel into Saudi Arabia. Travellers are rethinking how they want to spend their vacation time. They want to head to safe, less crowded destinations where they can be assured of a warm welcome. “I am especially happy to welcome our neighbouring countries – collectively we can achieve so much more than we can individually. Together we can create a multiplier effect that will offer unforgettable experiences. For decades you have hosted us as leisure tourists, now it is our pleasure to host you,” said Hamidaddin. There were a keynote conversation ‘Journeys Make People’ between Abdullah Al Dakhil, International Communication Manager, STA; and Khalid Al Ameri, Storyteller and Content Creator; and an expert panel discussion with Haitham Mattar, Chief Commercial Officer, STA; Khalid Bel Jaflah, Vice President, UAE, Emirates Airline; Marie Anne Benedetti, Managing Director, Jumbo Travels; and Sheikha Al Owais, VP Owner Relationship Management, Rotana Hotels.
Panellists discussed the huge shift in domestic travel and potential of the regional audience as an untapped segment, highlighting infrastructure, connectivity and capacity as the three fundamentals in further developing Saudi’s tourism ecosystem. Five unforgettable journeys were highlighted during the course of the webinar: the Unesco World Heritage site of Diriyah; the stunning AlUla with its 200,000 years of human history, breath-taking natural rock formations, iconic modern architecture and home to Hegra, one of the most recognizable images of Saudi; the ancient city centre of Jeddah - Al Balad; Taif, the mountainous City of Roses with its 90-plus rose farms; and The Red Sea, with its natural treasure trove of thriving coral reefs and abundant marine life including dolphins, dugongs and sea turtles.
Hamidaddin said: “In the old world of tourism, the DMO was the gatekeeper of knowledge and knowledge was power. In the new world, knowledge is empowerment. That’s why we want to build smart systems that will give you access to rich data and insight from all around the world in real time, so you can learn from the AI-empowered content even as it learns from you. “At STA, we are not building a network – we are building a community, dedicated to positioning Saudi as a unique tourism destination. “The world has changed almost beyond recognition. The pandemic has shown us how important it is to be agile and responsible. There is a reason why technology companies soared in 2020. These are companies that understand digital integration, that are instinctively dynamic and responsive to change, that understand how to use big data. While tech companies use the information for profits, we need to use them for progress, for growth. “Today, Saudi has only 5 per cent awareness as a travel destination but we have all seen challenges before. We used to say that ‘change is the only constant’. In these times, it is perhaps more apt to say that ‘uncertainty is the only certainty. “Despite the ever-changing global landscape we know that one thing remains the same – people continue to dream of travel,” concluded Hamidaddin. Following up on the success of the ‘Journeys in Arabia’ webinar, STA is hosting an immersive virtual roadshow for the Middle East on March 8 and 9, 2021, partnering with the most relevant destination, experience and hospitality brands in Saudi to showcase the best of what the Kingdom has to offer.