Saudi Arabia’s travel and tourism sector is expected to contribute more than $81 billion to the country’s GDP by 2026, according to data from the World Travel and Tourism Council.
This is being driven, in part, by domestic tourism - the number of local tourist trips inside Saudi Arabia - which exceeded 47.5 million last year (2016), a 2.3 per cent rise compared to 2015.
Under the Saudi Government’s Vision 2030, plans are afoot to increase household spending on cultural and entertainment activities inside the country, from 2.9 per cent to 6 per cent.
Simon Press, senior exhibition director, ATM 2017, said: “Plans are already well underway to achieve this target. The government has appointed the board of the General Entertainment Authority, and Six Flags has revealed exciting plans to expand into the country, with the first entertainment park scheduled to open as soon as 2020-21.
“Vision 2030 also seeks to double the number of Unesco heritage sites to encourage more domestic tourism, while both Holy Mosques have large expansion plans, and Makkah and Madinah have major infrastructure works underway or in the pipeline that would assist with travel to and within these religious sites.”
Proud of the growth in the tourism sector, Saudi exhibitors are preparing to showcase what the kingdom has to offer at this year’s Arabian Travel Market (ATM), which is being held in the Dubai World Trade Centre from April 23-27.
As well as the possible Six Flags theme park, Riyadh is also expected to see the opening of two major shopping malls: Mall of Saudi, with 300,000-sq-m of retail and entertainment space, a large snow park and hotels, and The Avenues Riyadh, a $1.9bn shopping complex. Another mega project that is bound to draw Saudi tourists includes Kingdom Tower in Jeddah – proposed to be the world’s next tallest building.
Colliers International’s Saudi Arabia Hospitality Market report revealed domestic tourism in Saudi Arabia will grow by 7.5 per cent per annum until 2020, compared to 6.1 per cent for overseas visitors.
Earlier this month, Prince Sultan bin Salman, president of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage, said Saudi Arabia will become ‘one of the biggest players’ in the industry. This followed news of additional government investment in tourism totaling $800 million.
To cope with the projected demand, there are an additional 61,224 hotel rooms in the pipeline across Saudi Arabia, despite major cities experiencing an overall drop in occupancy levels and average daily rates in 2016, as a result of low oil prices, precautionary corporate and overall government cuts in spending.
Leading global data benchmarking company STR said hotel occupancy levels in Saudi Arabia in 2016 was 59.5 per cent, an overall drop of 4.8 per cent on the previous year. Average daily rates (ADR) were also down 3.9 per cent to SR 764.08 ($203.6), while RevPAR stood at SR454.85 ($121.2), a fall of 8.5 per cent.
“We expect 2017 to be more positive, with a particularly strong focus on leisure, religious and domestic tourism as the country looks to increase the contribution from the non-oil sectors,” added Press.
ATM - considered by many industry professionals as a barometer for the Middle East and North Africa tourism sector, witnessed a year-on-year visitor attendance increase of 9 per cent to over 28,500 in 2016, with 2,785 exhibiting companies, signing business deals worth more than $2.5 billion over four days.
Held under the patronage of HH Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE, Ruler of Dubai, ATM 2017 will build on its success with the announcement of an additional hall as Reed Travel Exhibitions looks to add to its record-breaking achievements of 2016.
For more information on Arabian Travel Market 2017, please visit:www.arabiantravelmarket.wtm.com.
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