According to a new report, issued ahead of Arabian Travel Market 2018, recent reforms in Saudi Arabia – not to mention widespread investment in the Kingdom’s burgeoning tourism industry – will drive growth in the hospitality market of 13.5 percent compound annual growth rate (CAGR), higher than the established markets of the UAE (10 percent) and Oman (almost 12 percent).
Saudi Arabia is expected to see a vast expansion of its hotel and resort inventory, along with a steep increase in airport passengers, as Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman continues to drive economic and social reforms, including direct investment in tourism.
The study produced by ATM’s research partner Colliers, found that religious tourism in the kingdom is still driving demand, with 30,000 rooms opened during 2017, with a further 40,020 guestrooms in 89 projects currently under construction – compared to 35,050 rooms in the UAE.
Last year, Saudi Arabia set the stage for this to expand to leisure tourism, as it pursues targets of 30 million visitors annually by 2030. As a result, 2018 will see the first tourism visas granted to international travellers and, for the first time, women aged 25 and older will now be able to obtain a single entry, 30-day tourist visa without a male chaperone.
The Kingdom has announced a series of leisure projects in recent months, including the creation of a Six Flags theme park in Riyadh by 2021 and a Red Sea resort built on 100 miles of sandy coastline and backed by investment from Virgin Group founder Sir Richard Branson. Featuring hotels, residences and a transport hub, the project will create 35,000 jobs, adding SAR15 billion to the economy.
Aligned with the vision, the Public Investment Fund (PIF) ploughed SAR10 billion into entertainment ventures in 2017 and, under the National Transformation Programme (NTP) the Kingdom has invested SAR171.5 billion in tourism development.
In 2017, 1,671 visitors from Saudi Arabia attended the ATM event, a 14 percent year-on-year increase compared with the 1,471 who visited in 2016.
The report, forecasts that five-year air passenger numbers will increase eight percent at King Khalid International Airport Riyadh and six percent at King Abdulaziz International Airport, Jeddah. This is compared to eight percent at both Muscat and Dubai International and seven percent at Abu Dhabi International.
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