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ATM 2018: Saudi tourism set to outpace regional champions

Recent reforms in Saudi Arabia, not to mention widespread investment in the kingdom’s burgeoning tourism industry, will drive growth in the hospitality market of 13.5 per cent compound annual growth rate, according to a new report.

That is higher than the established markets in the UAE (10.1 per cent) and Oman (11.8 per cent).

The figures come from fresh research issued ahead of Arabian Travel Market 2018.

Commenting on the findings of the report, Simon Press, senior exhibition director, Arabian Travel Market, said: “Following recent reforms and the relaxation of visa regulations, Saudi Arabia is poised to capitalise on these factors as it nurtures a vibrant leisure and entertainment sector, supported by a new generation of hotels.”

Saudi Arabia is expected to see a vast expansion of its hotel and resort inventory, along with a steep increase in airport passengers, as crown prince Mohamed bin Salman continues to drive economic and social reforms, including direct investment in tourism.

The study produced by ATM’s research partner Colliers, found that religious tourism in the kingdom is still driving demand, with 30,000 rooms opened during 2017, with a further 40,020 guestrooms in 89 projects currently under construction – compared to 35,050 rooms in the UAE.

Last year, Saudi Arabia set the stage for this to expand to leisure tourism, as it pursues targets of 30 million visitors annually by 2030.

As a result, 2018 will see the first tourism visas granted to international travellers and, for the first time, women aged 25 and older will now be able to obtain a single entry, 30-day tourist visa without a male chaperone.

The kingdom has announced a series of leisure projects in recent months, including the creation of a Six Flags theme park in Riyadh by 2021 and a Red Sea resort built on 100 miles of sandy coastline and backed by investment from Virgin Group founder Richard Branson.

Featuring hotels, residences and a transport hub, the project will create 35,000 jobs, adding SAR15 billion to the economy.

In 2017, 1,671 visitors from Saudi Arabia attended the ATM event, a 14 per cent year-on-year increase compared with the 1,471 who visited in 2016.

The report, forecasts that five-year air passenger numbers will increase eight per cent at King Khalid International Airport Riyadh and six per cent at King Abdulaziz International Airport, Jeddah.

Press added: “These higher visitor arrivals will support jobs, investment opportunities and economic diversification, in line with the kingdom’s plans for its future.

“In terms of regional tourism, these are game changing developments, completely unprecedented, and something few expected.”
Arabian Travel Market will take place at the Dubai World Trade Centre from April 22nd-25th.

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