GCC tourist numbers to Saudi Arabia up 25pc
Saudi Arabia remains a popular destination for GCC tourists, with around 7.4 million visitors entering the kingdom in the first six months of 2015, an increase of 25 per cent compared to the same period in 2014, according to official data.
A total of 2.1 million visitors were ‘day visitors’ with the remaining 5.2 million spending nearly SR11.8 billion ($3.14 billion) in the kingdom, said the data from the Saudi Commission for Tourism & National Heritage (SCTNH). GCC tourists accounted for 30.5 million room nights during the period.
Bahraini and Kuwaiti visitors accounted for a large percentage of the total inbound GCC visitors to Saudi Arabia, accounting for 33 per cent each, followed by Qatar and the UAE.
Saudi Arabia's potential as a destination will be highlighted as the kingdom at this year’s Arabian Travel Market (ATM) in Dubai, UAE from April 25 to 28, at the Dubai International Convention and Exhibition Centre (DICEC).
Saudi exhibitors at ATM 2106 will highlight the future of tourism in the country, which has some $11.6 billion worth of tourism projects currently underway.
“A recent report by the Saudi Eastern Province Chamber of Commerce and Industry stated that tourism contributed 2.7 per cent of the country’s GDP, with 2014 tourism receipts totalling around $45.3 billion. While the bulk of this comes from Haj and Umrah travel, which accounted for almost $27 billion, this clearly demonstrates the strong domestic travel market within the kingdom, as well as the growing business travel segment,” said Nadege Noblet-Segers, exhibition manager, Arabian Travel Market.
“Haj and Umrah travel is also an opportunity for additional revenue generation, with the authorities reportedly keen to encourage visitors to extend their stay and discover all that Saudi Arabia has to offer from a leisure perspective. And with forecasted visitor numbers to the holy sites of Makkah and Madinah set to rise from 12 million to 17 million per annum by 2025, there is plenty of opportunity for the country’s tourism sector to benefit,” she added.
Major tourism-related projects include a number of transportation initiatives including the new 450-km-long high-speed rail link between Makkah and Madinah.
Leisure pursuits are also on the development list, with plans for the kingdom’s first large-scale mixed-use coastal tourist development just south of Dammam, and plans to develop Taif’s historic Souk Okaz.
“Saudi Arabia is also a destination of outstanding natural beauty. Madain Saleh, for example, with its Petra-like Nabatean ruins is a designated UN World Heritage site, and the coral-based Farasan Islands are a protected marine sanctuary,” said Noblet-Segers.
Participating companies at ATM 2016 from Saudi Arabia include Mamlakat Al-Asfar Travel & Tourism, Al Khozama Management Company, E Travel Gate, Saudi Commission for Tourism & Antiquities, Saudia Airline, Yrbooking.com, Makarem Hotels and Itrip.
ATM 2016 will build on the success of the previous edition with an additional hall for exhibitors. The event will showcase more than 2,800 products and destinations from around the world to over 26,000 buyers and travel trade visitors.