Saudi Arabia: A Traveler’s Treat in Post-COVID-19 Era

Introduction - A closed joint stock company wholly owned by the Public Investment Fund (PIF) of Saudi Arabia to drive the development of The Red Sea Project, a regenerative tourism destination along Saudi Arabia’s west coast, contracted Inkorporated to create articles for their blog. Here is one of them.

Outcome – The company used the article in one of their newsletters for their clients. It was well-received and led an increase in client interaction and dialogue.

Saudi Arabia: A Traveler’s Treat in Post-COVID-19 Era

When you think about international travel destinations, Saudi Arabia may not be the first country that comes to mind. Nevertheless, the kingdom is the second largest tourist destination in the Middle East. Its growing popularity as a leisure destination is reflected in that when the kingdom opened its doors to international tourists for the first time in 2019, it had to issue 400,000 visas in the first six months alone to meet the demand from travelers keen to explore the region. Although tourism here is largely religion-centric, leisure tourism is growing by leaps and bounds, with pre-pandemic estimates suggesting total tourist trips would increase to 94 million by 2023, from about 64 million in 2018.

The coronavirus pandemic dealt a telling blow to the tourism sector. Governments across the world, including Saudi Arabia, responded to the crisis by suspending all non-essential international travel. In fact, for the first time in eight decades, pilgrimages to the holy cities of Mecca and Medina were also called off. However, with increasing vaccination rates, things are looking up – finally. Nearly 18 months since the first lockdown, Saudi Arabia opened its doors to fully vaccinated international travelers on August 1. Foreign tourists are now free to enter and traverse the length and breadth of the country without the need to quarantine.

Saudi Arabia is preparing for the impending surge in leisure tourism by lining up investments totalling approximately USD 810 billion in mega projects, such as the Red Sea Project, Neom, Qiddiya and Amaala, that will transform the kingdom into one of the largest leisure tourism destinations in the world. The kingdom also announced plans to host to a series of high-profile sporting events such as Formula E, European football tournaments and world heavyweight boxing matches, among others.

Tourism forms one of the pillars of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 program, and will be a major factor for attracting investments, creating new job opportunities, diversifying the national economy, and increasing alternative sources of income. The sector is seeing a rapid growth due to massive marketing and promotional campaigns. The government is also bolstering domestic tourism through various initiatives such as cruise tours to the Red Sea from Jeddah Port.

And if that is not enough, Saudi Arabia’s rich cultural history (dating back to 1744), the juniper forests of Asir, the azure reefs and pristine islands dotting the Red Sea, the meandering backstreets and spice markets of Jeddah, the tropical oasis of Al-Hofuf, the ruins of Al Ula, cultural sites of Riyadh, are the other big draws. Add to this, a hospitable local population, unique cuisines and mesmerizing desert landscapes, and you’ll quickly understand why Saudi Arabia has all the makings of a traveler’s paradise.