Dubai: After taking major steps in 2019 to open the door to international tourism as part of Saudi Arabia’s strategy to diversify its economy, Saudi Arabia is now taking rapid steps to improve its air link network. .
The recently signed agreement between the Saudi Tourism Authority (STA) and Emirates Airlines, one of the largest commercial carriers in the world, is to increase the number of international travelers who choose to vacation in the country, benefiting both economies.
The Memorandum of Understanding signed between the two institutions in February is expected to add a further impetus to future NEOM tourism infrastructure projects from the Trojan Sky Resort to AlUla and the entertainment city of Kedah in Riyadh.
Adel Al-Qaeda, the UAE’s top vice president for trade operations in the Persian Gulf, Middle East and Central Asia, described Saudi Arabia as “one of our most important markets in the region” and said the deal would help the kingdom achieve its purpose. It will become a better global destination.
Al-Qaeda told Arab News, “The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is undergoing a major transformation, which includes a number of unique projects that will help establish it as one of the most attractive tourist destinations in the world and help tell her story to the world. “
“We are already seeing interest among travelers who are interested in the kingdom’s stunning landscapes, very diverse seas and landscapes, as well as rich culture and history.”
As part of the Memorandum of Understanding, STA and the UAE will work together to strengthen key countries in the Kingdom with the aim of making Saudi Arabia a key market in its global network of around 130 tracks.
The partners will share insights into data on passenger trends and booking behavior, which will help STA “refine their strategies to effectively target trade in major enclaves around the world,” the base said.
The Dubai-based airline operates 53 flights a week through its four Saudi ports to Riyadh, Jeddah, Dammam and Medina.
Utilizing its extensive air network, Emirates is promoting inbound tourism to Saudi Arabia, taking advantage of new, previously untapped segments of the passenger market.
Following the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding, Fahd Hamid Al-Din, CEO and Member of the Board of the Saudi Tourism Commission, said: “This Memorandum will help to reach more than 120 destinations worldwide and attract tourists from these destinations. in various Saudi destinations.
Omar Akbar, tourism expert and CEO of Zamzam.com, a B2B pilgrim booking search engine, believes the STA-Emirates agreement will pave the way for important partnerships to achieve the goals and aspirations of the Saudi tourism ecosystem, which are in in line with Vision 2030.
Saudi Prince Mohammed bin Salman launched the Vision 2030 reform agenda in 2017, which diversified the country’s economy from oil by promoting a range of industries, including tourism.
Historically, most of Saudi Arabia’s revenue in this regard came from religious tourism. In 2019, nearly 20 percent of the country’s GDP came from non-oil sources – about $ 12 billion – from Umrah pilgrims and pilgrims to the holy sites of Mecca and Medina.
The travel industry has been hit hard by the Govt-19 pandemic of operational restrictions imposed by governments in 2020-2021, particularly for agencies serving religious tourists. Now, with the easing of restrictions, the market is improving.
“I strongly believe that this sector will return traffic to normal at any time,” Akbar told Arab News. In fact, the number of Umrah pilgrims this year is closer than it was in pre-pandemic times.
By 2030, the tourism industry wants to contribute about 10 percent of GDP, attract 100 million annual visits to its main destinations (45 million domestic tourists and 55 million incoming tourists) and create 1 million additional jobs.
The first big step towards achieving this goal was the introduction of the Saudi e-Visa in 2019, which made it easier for foreign travelers to arrange travel documents online.
“The Evisa facility has greatly contributed to attracting a large number of visitors and has increased the value of the growing number of visitors in order to achieve Vision 2030,” said Akbar.
To increase the number of visitors, STA organized a global marketing campaign to promote the latest developments in luxury travel in the Kingdom and its lesser known traditional jewelery.
From advertising campaigns and trade shows to organizing travel for influencers to international magazines, travel agencies and social media, the country is doing its best to improve the number of visitors.
“Now there is no other country in the world that invests so much money to show its magic,” Daniel Ponzo, managing director of the Jeddah-based Al-Zahid Travel Group, told Arab News.
In addition, STA has partnered with the Ministries of Tourism in Southeast Asia, South Asia and Europe to develop a common agenda for the promotion and preservation of heritage and culture, among other regions.
Meanwhile, Ponzo said a number of plans are being developed to provide the necessary accommodation, transportation links and attractions throughout Saudi Arabia “to make the target one of the most beautiful places in the world”.
One of the most important attractions in the Kingdom is Al-Ula in the northwest, famous for its beautiful desert landscape and its historical, geographical and geographical importance.
Completed by 2035, it aims to create 38,000 new jobs, attract 2 million visitors a year, increase the area’s population to 130,000 and contribute $ 32 billion to the state’s economy. $ 2 billion has already been invested in the project and $ 3.2 billion is being spent on priority infrastructure.
NEOM also has a new target, which is now being formed to be the country’s first smart city on the Red Sea coast, where officials will offer 45,000 rooms by 2030.
“Then there is one of the most unusual projects like the development of the Red Sea,” Ponzo said. By 2030 about 22 islands with 48 resorts will be created. Also, by 2023, five islands will be created with approximately 3000 rooms and 16 resorts.
“You can see big improvements. From 2018 and 2019 in Saudi Arabia, it is amazing what is happening since he decided to open the doors to tourism.
Experts say the entire GCC region would benefit from Saudi Arabia’s involvement in regional travel agencies’s regional travel plans and the expansion of transportation options.
“I think this is a great idea and the whole region is going in the same direction,” Akbar said.
“With the expected connection between the GCC countries through various means of transport, it will encourage and enable tourists to explore the culture of the Middle East in the short term.”
Coincidentally, and as part of its economic reforms, the Saudi government last year announced plans to become a global hub of transportation and logistics by 2030, with a target of 330 million passenger traffic per year.
To that end, a new airline will be set up in Riyadh, while the national carrier will leave Jeddah under a transport strategy that requires Saudi Arabia to establish two hubs.
Mohammed al-Quraisi, strategic head of the General Civil Aviation Authority, recently told Reuters that Saudi Arabia’s main goal is to increase the number of visitors to the kingdom. “We do not follow the transfer market.”
The general consensus is that Saudi Arabia’s openness to the world has given the entire region the opportunity to reshape its international image and reap rich economic benefits.
“We can already see that there are travelers in the region who are interested in visiting two or three places together,” Ponzo said. The Dubai + mix is in high demand. ”
“With the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, some travelers to Qatar will link Qatar and Saudi Arabia as a travel mix.”
Watching the feature film, he said: “Saudi Arabia is now on the map of new destinations in the region and possibly on the list of millions of travelers, which will be a big boost for the region.”