Saudi Arabia targets 70 million tourist visits this year – official

FILE PHOTO: Guests swim on a cruise ship during a leisure trip in the Red Sea, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia September 20, 2021. REUTERS/Mohammed Benmansour/File Photo Reuters_tickers

This content was published on May 9, 2022 – 15:58

By Youssef Saba

DUBAI (Reuters) – Saudi Arabia is aiming to top 70 million tourist visits this year after attracting 62 million last year, a tourism official said on Monday, noting the conservative kingdom was scrambling to boost its travel industry.

Saudi Arabia is a major religious destination with millions of people visiting Islam’s two holiest cities, Mecca and Medina, each year to perform Hajj and Umrah pilgrimages.

The kingdom has in recent years begun to promote leisure travel as part of a strategy to diversify the economy away from oil, led by de facto Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Visits were up 130% in the first quarter of 2022 compared to the last quarter of 2019, Saudi Tourism Authority CEO Fahd Hamidaddin told Reuters in an interview held on the sidelines of the Arabian Travel Market industry event which was held in Dubai.

“I think our domestic travel was at an all-time high last year. And in the overall recovery in total travel, we outperformed the world, we outperformed the region in terms of recovery – we reached 72% of pre-pandemic levels,” he said.

“I will say this for the first time… We are seeing more than 130% over pre-pandemic levels,” Hamidaddin said, adding that this was for the leisure tourism segment only and did not include religious travel.

Saudi Arabia plans to open the doors to several tourism-focused projects over the next few years, including the Red Sea Project, a high-end development that will include resorts on islands and inland. lands.

“We are very happy to see Dubai succeeding, just like Jordan, like Egypt, all recovering and developing. And we want to play our part – and we believe that our success is a success for everyone,” said Hamidaddin, answering a question. on regional competition.

(Reporting by Yousef Saba; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

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