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UN Tourism and WTTC applaud Saudi Arabia’s historic milestone of 100 million tourists

Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia’s Travel & Tourism sector achieved a 156% increase in international tourist arrivals in 2023 compared to 2019.

In a testament to its strategic vision and robust sector growth, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has welcomed over 100 million tourists, marking a significant milestone in its journey to become a global tourism powerhouse.

In an exceptional achievement, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has welcomed over 100 million tourists, a milestone celebrated by the World Tourism Organization (UN Tourism) and WTTC. This remarkable accomplishment achieved seven years ahead of its original schedule, not only underscores Saudi Arabia’s emergence as a global tourism powerhouse but also highlights its leading role in the economic diversification and sustainable development of the tourism sector worldwide. This milestone, marked by the arrival of over 27 million international tourists and over 79 million domestic tourists with a combined total spend of over USD 67 billion, not only showcases the Kingdom’s robust tourism sector but also underscores the Saudi Ministry of Tourism’s commitment to advanced data gathering and statistical analysis, a priority echoed by UN Tourism.

The Kingdom’s success story is built on a foundation of strategic initiatives and reforms that have propelled its tourism sector to new heights. With a staggering 390% increase in demand for tourism activity licenses in 2023 and the contribution of tourism to the non-oil GVA estimated to exceed 7%, Saudi Arabia’s vision for the future is clear. With the tourism sector’s direct contribution to the GDP estimated to exceed 4%, the country has showcased its resilience, innovation, and commitment to excellence.

Strategic Partnerships and Global Leadership

UN Tourism has closely collaborated with Saudi Arabia, recognizing its efforts in developing a robust tourism infrastructure and statistical analysis capabilities. The inauguration ofUN Tourism’s Regional Office for the Middle East in Riyadh in 2021 marked a significant step towards fostering tourism innovation, education, and rural development. This partnership has been instrumental in positioning Saudi Arabia as a leader in sustainable tourism practices and statistical excellence.

Elevating its global position in the tourism sector, Saudi Arabia has distinguished itself by leading the G20 in international tourist growth rate in 2023 compared to 2019. This recognition underlines the Kingdom’s pivotal role in the global tourism sector’s recovery following the pandemic. Moreover, the Middle East has emerged as the sole region not only to rebound but also to outpace pre-pandemic tourism levels, with a 122 percent recovery in international tourist arrivals in 2023 compared to 2019. At the forefront of this remarkable growth, Saudi Arabia witnessed a staggering 156 percent recovery in international tourist arrivals compared to 2019, underscoring its central role in the region’s tourism boom.

A Testament to Resilience and Innovation

The Kingdom’s tourism sector has shown remarkable resilience, with inbound spending reaching over USD 37 billion in 2023 and a significant increase in hotel keys across the kingdom. These achievements are a testament to Saudi Arabia’s commitment to creating a prosperous and sustainable tourism sector.

Empowering the Workforce

The employment opportunities created by the tourism sector are a cornerstone of Saudi Arabia’s success. As of 2023, with 925.5 thousand jobs in the tourism sector and significant investments in training, the Kingdom is on track to make tourism the second-largest employer by 2030. This focus on workforce development ensures that the benefits of tourism growth are shared widely and sustainably.

Gratitude and Future Vision

UN Tourism extends its congratulations to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for this historic achievement. We commend the leadership, the Ministry of Tourism, and all partners for their unwavering support and dedication. As Saudi Arabia continues to drive towards its goal of 150 million tourists by 2030, UN Tourism looks forward to supporting its journey, celebrating its successes, and promoting a more resilient, sustainable, and inclusive future for global tourism.

Saudi Arabia’s achievement of welcoming over 100 million tourists in 2023 is a beacon of what is possible through collaboration, innovation, and a clear vision for the future. The Kingdom not only promises a diverse and rich tourism experience but delivers on that promise, paving the way for a brighter future for the global tourism industry.

World Travel & Tourism Council congratulates Saudi Arabia

The introduction of tourist visas in 2019 and the strategic formation of the Ministry of Tourism in 2020 have been pivotal in aligning the Travel & Tourism sector with the ambitious goals of Vision 2030. The National Tourism Strategy and subsequent regulations introduced in 2022 to enhance service quality and development have further propelled the sector forward, setting a strong foundation for sustainable growth and innovation.

Saudi Arabia’s Travel & Tourism sector has demonstrated remarkable resilience, achieving a 156% increase in international tourist arrivals in 2023 compared to 2019. This recovery highlights the effectiveness of the Kingdom’s strategic initiatives, including the streamlined E-visa program and significant investments in tourism infrastructure, which have collectively enhanced the country’s appeal as a premier global tourism destination.

The achievement of attracting over 100 million tourists underscores the success of Saudi Arabia’s proactive strategy and reform-driven approach to cultivating a vibrant tourism ecosystem. This milestone not only showcases the sector’s appeal but also Saudi Arabia’s strategic foresight and adaptability, achieving a significant goal seven years ahead of schedule.

Saudi Arabia strategic reforms have created a supportive and flexible regulatory environment that encourages investment and innovation. Key among these reforms is the restructuring of tourism license fees, tailored to meet specific needs and operations of investors. The Kingdom has also taken significant steps to alleviate the financial burden on the Travel & Tourism sector by reducing annual government fees by almost 22%, with a commitment to further reductions of up to 70%. These initiatives are integral to Saudi Arabia’s broader economic diversification strategy and its aim to position tourism as a leading employment sector by 2030.

As Saudi Arabia continues its path of expansion and strategic reforms within the Travel & Tourism sector, WTTC recognises the Kingdom’s significant achievements and is committed to supporting its ongoing ambitions. The global tourism body looks forward to Saudi Arabia’s continued growth and success in establishing itself as a global tourism powerhouse, contributing to the sector’s global recovery and prosperity.

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Theodore is the Co-Founder and Managing Editor of TravelDailyNews Media Network; his responsibilities include business development and planning for TravelDailyNews long-term opportunities.

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