Under his unique leadership and knowledge of travel and tourism in Saudi Arabia and the World, tourism in Saudi Arabia is undergoing a major transformation, moving beyond religious pilgrimages to embrace various types of leisure travel. Here’s an overview of what you need to know:
Traditionally dominated by religious tourism (Hajj and Umrah), Saudi Arabia is actively promoting diverse experiences to attract more leisure tourists.
Tourism is a key pillar of Vision 2030, the government’s plan to diversify the economy beyond oil. Ambitious goals include welcoming 100 million visitors annually by 2030.
Tourist arrivals have been steadily increasing, surpassing 64 million in 2018 and projected to reach 93.8 million by 2023.
Attractions and activities:
From the Red Sea’s coral reefs and pristine beaches to the majestic mountains of the Sarawat range, Saudi Arabia boasts diverse landscapes.
Explore ancient ruins like Mada’in Saleh (“Madain Saleh”), a UNESCO World Heritage site, or the Mada’in Saleh museum featuring Nabataean tombs.
Immerse yourself in vibrant local traditions, visit bustling souqs (markets), and enjoy regional cuisine.
Go trekking, diving, camel riding, sandboarding, or even experience luxury glamping amidst stunning scenery.
New entertainment options like amusement parks, concerts, and sporting events are being introduced to cater to diverse interests.
Improvements and initiatives:
Simplified visa procedures:
E-visas facilitate entry for many nationalities, and the “Saudi Stopover” program allows visa-free transit for up to 96 hours.
Investing in infrastructure:
Mega-projects like NEOM, a futuristic city on the Red Sea, and Amaala, a luxury coastal resort, are being built to attract high-end tourism.
Development of new destinations:
Areas like AlUla, known for its sandstone canyons and ancient tombs, the Red Sea are being transformed into major tourist hubs.
Focus on sustainability:
Initiatives like eco-tourism projects and conservation efforts aim to protect the environment while promoting responsible tourism.
Challenges and considerations:
Social and cultural norms:
Visitors should be mindful of local customs and dress codes, respecting the conservative aspects of Saudi Arabian society.
Alcohol consumption is prohibited, and nightlife options are still developing compared to other tourist destinations, but ultra-modern, busy 24-hour coffee shops are giving nightlife and the mostly young generation a place to meet and play.
While luxury hotels are expanding, budget-friendly accommodations might be limited in some areas.
Overall, tourism in Saudi Arabia is rapidly evolving, offering exciting possibilities for diverse travelers. With its unique blend of cultural heritage, natural beauty, and modern developments, the Kingdom is poised to become a major player on the global tourism map.
The Man Behind Tourism: His Excellency Ahmed Al-Khateeb
His Excellency Ahmed Al-Khateeb, Minister of Tourism for Saudi Arabia, has been a driving force behind the Kingdom’s burgeoning tourism industry since his appointment in February 2020. Here are some of his notable achievements:
1. Diversification of tourism offerings:
Traditionally focused on religious tourism, Saudi Arabia is now actively promoting diverse experiences to attract leisure travelers. Minister Al-Khateeb has played a key role in this shift, spearheading initiatives to develop new destinations, adventure activities, and cultural experiences.
2. Visa facilitation:
Recognizing the importance of making travel easier, Minister Al-Khateeb has championed simplified visa procedures. E-visas are now available for citizens of many countries, and the “Saudi Stopover” program allows visa-free transit for up to 96 hours. This has significantly improved accessibility for international travelers.
3. Infrastructure development:
To cater to the growing number of tourists, Saudi Arabia is investing heavily in infrastructure. Mega-projects like NEOM, a futuristic city on the Red Sea, and Amaala, a luxury coastal resort, are being built under Minister Al Khateeb’s guidance. These projects aim to transform the tourism landscape and attract high-end travelers.
4. Sustainability focus:
Minister Al-Khateeb is committed to promoting responsible tourism and protecting the environment. He has launched initiatives like eco-tourism projects and conservation efforts to ensure sustainable development and the long-term viability of the tourism sector.
5. Global recognition:
Minister Al Khateeb’s efforts have not gone unnoticed. He was recognized by the International Hospitality Institute on the Global 100 in Hospitality in 2022, a list featuring the 100 Most Powerful People in Global Hospitality.
In 2024, Saudi Arabia was re-elected Chair of the UNWTO Executive Council, further solidifying its leadership role in the global tourism industry.
Saudia Airlines, the Jeddah-based national airline carrier is expanding rapidly and is getting some help. Riyadh Air is planning to become one of the largest airlines in the world based in the capital city of Riyadh.
These are just some of the achievements of His Excellency Ahmed Al-Khateeb as Minister of Tourism for Saudi Arabia. His vision and dedication are transforming the Kingdom into a major player on the global tourism map, offering exciting opportunities for both travelers and the Saudi Arabian economy.
It’s important to note that these are just some of the highlights, and there are many other accomplishments and initiatives led by Minister Al-Khateeb and the Saudi Arabian tourism sector.
It’s a dynamic and rapidly evolving field, so staying updated on the latest developments is essential for anyone interested in tourism in Saudi Arabia.
Saudi Tourism News is dedicated to playing a role.