As Saudi Arabia recently decided to launch e-visas for non-religious foreign tourists, the Kingdom has all chance to become the new tourism force in the region.
Over the last few years, Saudi Arabia has put a lot of efforts to diversify its economy from oil. The kingdom's recent decision to release e-visas is surely set to have a positive long-term impact on its tourism market.
A Kingdom with high potential
With this announcement, Saudi Arabia seems to consider itself ready to become the new tourism force of the region. Indeed, thanks to its Vision 2030 project, the Kingdom has been focusing on opening itself to the world and has planned $64 billion of investments in culture, leisure and entertainment projects over the next decade. This strategy has already significantly enhanced the country's attractiveness as a tourist destination.
According to the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), the Kingdom is expected to reach 22.1 million in international arrivals by 2025, which would be nearly 40% higher than Dubai's current visitors.
This projected growth is mainly due to a particular focus on creating a brand-new hospitality landscape. Saudi Arabia's tourism has been able to highlight its strengths by launching giga-projects across the Kingdom.
Case in point, several massive leisure projects are emerging on the western coast, which seems to have been chosen by the Kingdom to become the new leisure area of the country thanks to its exceptional biodiversity.
One of these projects, the Amaala, also called the "Middle East Riviera", will generate alone 2'500 luxury hotels rooms and more than 22'000 jobs by its completion in 2028. All those projects aim to retain Saudi tourists in the Kingdom, rather than see them travel to the UAE, as well as to attract international tourism.
Increasing demand from religious tourism
In parallel to those leisure developments, the Vision 2030 project aims to increase international religious tourists for the Umrah to 30 million by 2030. This would mean doubling the number of religious visas and therefore the demand.
With those changes, Jeddah, transit city for pilgrimages to the Islamic holy cities of Mecca and Medina, is expecting an additional 1'800 and 2'000 keys in 2020 and 2021 respectively with the creation of new luxury properties such as the new Jeddah Marriott or the new Shangri-la Jeddah Hotel.
Moreover, the religious visas will now be convertible into non-religious foreign tourists' visas to encourage people to visit the Kingdom's new touristic infrastructures.