Tourism to contribute 5% of Saudi Arabia's GDP by 2021
On 27 September, 2019, a new reform took effect in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. It’s borders were opened for tourism. Moreover, it relaxed the dress code for foreign women to not have to wear an abaya in the country.
Thousands of applicants took advantage of this opportunity to visit the country that hasn’t been seen by many in the world.
A few weeks before the launch of the e-visa system, Saudi Arabia invested in the PR and marketing of its tourism sector through social media influencers. They were invited to visit the country, who highlighted KSA’s beautiful landscapes through Instagram and other channels. A smart strategy that used the power of word-of-mouth marketing to encourage tourists and put apprehensions to rest.
Within the first 10 days since e-visa came into effect, Saudi Arabia welcomed 24,000 tourists to the Kingdom, with Chinese tourists topping the list with 7,391 visitors; followed by the UK with 6,159 visitors and the United States with 2,132 visitors.
Gloria Guevara, the President and Chief Executive of World Travel and Tourism Council has now said that tourism is set to grow in Saudi Arabia and that by 2021 it will account for 5 percent of the GDP.
Saudi Arabia has been heavily investing in the development of its tourism industry, with projects such as the The Red Sea Project, which is set on a group of more than 50 islands in the sea, Amaala, another leisure destination on the northwestern coast of the Red Sea, as well as Qiddiyah which is an entertainment megaproject within the city of Riyadh.
Furthermore, its visa is valid for a period of one year, wherein tourists can visit the Kingdom multiple times, with each visit limited to 90 days.
The new reform also allows tourists from 49 countries to be eligible for visa on arrival as well as e-visa that can be received in 5-30 minutes for just $120 including the fee for health insurance.
This group of countries include: Canada, USA, Andorra, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Holland, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, Montenegro, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, San Marino, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Ukraine, United Kingdom, Brunei, China (Including Hong Kong and Macau), Japan, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea, Australia, and New Zealand.
For SME hoteliers looking to expand their business, Saudi Arabia's growing tourism industry could be an interesting avenue to boost growth before it gets saturated by players. The focus currently is on luxury and expensive travel. We're curious to see how the market will cater to the mid-income and backpacker market. Will Oyo expand to Saudi Arabia following its project in Abu Dhabi? We'll be keeping a watch to see how the industry grows.