For the first time, a Saudi delegation attended the Phocuswright Conference – one of the industry’s leading travel and technology forums in Florida, to showcase Saudi’s tourism offering and the scale of opportunities for US partners.
This year’s event was held from November 13 to 16 under the theme of ‘You, Me & The Machine’, which centers around how the travel industry is being transformed by AI capabilities.
Fahd Hamidaddin, CEO and Member of the Board, of Saudi Tourism Authority, joined a panel session as part of the event’s ‘Bridge Series’ titled ‘Innovating Travel & Tourism for the Future’. The session was an opportunity to highlight the Saudi tourism transformation story, the kingdom-wide culture of innovation that drives the Saudi Vision 2030, and the upskilling and reskilling of the tourism workforce to improve all aspects of visitor travel experiences.
The event’s 1,200 attendees from more than 500 companies included the biggest names in every sector of travel and tourism. The Saudi delegation met with CEOs and leadership from top global companies over the three days to discuss facilitating new business opportunities and unlocking shared value to be found in the US market, including Tripadvisor, Expedia, Hopper, and Skyscanner.
The Saudi pavilion was an experiential Saudi Café that took visitors on an educational journey with activities showcasing Saudi’s diverse locations and the authentic tastes of Arabia, while guests enjoyed traditional Saudi bites and drinks including Saudi coffee and rose and pomegranate juice.
NEOM also had a presence in the Saudi area, with a corner dedicated to sharing Sindalah destination updates. Set to open in 2024, Sindalah is the $500 billion megaproject’s luxurious yachting destination.
Fahd Hamidaddin, CEO and Member of the Board at Saudi Tourism Authority, said:
“As the biggest investor in tourism in the world, Saudi tourism continues to grow at a solid pace.
“And the US is a key market for Saudi – we are taking steps to really understand the needs and wants of our US trade partners and consumers.
“Our presence, for the first time, at the Phocuswright Conference signifies a significant vote of confidence in new business growth with our US partners, longstanding and new.”
Saudi is creating increased travel options and competitiveness to reach its ambitious tourism targets, with the eVisa program first launched in 2019 now including 63 countries and special administrative regions, compared to the initial 49 countries in its launch.
Connectivity between the US and Saudi Arabia has gone from strength to strength with Saudia now offering 17 direct connections per week from Los Angeles, New York, and Washington to Jeddah and Riyadh, with over 255,000 inbound seats in 2023. Direct capacity will grow by 7% in the first quarter of 2024 against the same period in 2023. This is complemented by a number of airline partners operating indirect services via Europe and the GCC.
And Saudia’s North American footprint will grow in December when it launches direct services to Canada with three flights per week on a Jeddah – Toronto route – injecting 894 inbound seats per week.
Saudi has just entered its Winter Season and has a packed cultural and sporting events calendar with 11,000 events set to take place including MDL Beast, the Red Sea Film Festival, Riyadh Season 2023 with more than 10 thrilling zones around the city, and AlUla’s flagship festival, Winter at Tantora, from December 21 to January 27. In the New Year, Saudi will welcome the return of its hotly anticipated Dakar Rally.
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