Saudi Arabian tourism buoyed by domestic demand as it prepares to welcome foreign tourists

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  • Fahd Hamidaddin, CEO, Saudi Tourism Authority addressed travel and tourism industry professionals at the ATM 2021 Saudi Arabia Tourism Summit
  • Travel and tourism industry in Saudi Arabia remained buoyant throughout 2020 and Q1 2021 due to success of domestic tourism campaign, says tourism chief 
  • SAUDIA to return to profitability by 2024, if not earlier, according to the airline’s CEO

As Saudi Arabia forges ahead with Vision 2030, with tourism earmarked as a key economic driver, tourism and travel leaders from the Kingdom convened at the ATM 2021 Saudi Arabia Tourism Summit on the Global Stage yesterday to discuss the strategy’s positive repercussions for the country, its people, investors and millions of global travellers. 

Addressing a capacity crowd at the in-person ATM 2021, the region’s largest travel and tourism showcase, were Fahd Hamidaddin, CEO, Saudi Tourism Authority, Majed Alnefaie, Acting CEO of Seera, Captain Ibrahim Koshy, CEO, Saudi Arabian Airlines (SAUDIA), and Dr Afnan Al Shuaiby, Founder and CEO of FNN International and Chair of the Arab International Women’s Forum.

The audience heard how Saudi Arabia is preparing to reopen its borders for foreign tourists imminently, and it is well on its way to realising its ambition for attracting 100 million tourists per year by 2030. 

Fahd Hamidaddin, CEO of Saudi Tourism Authority, discussed the Kingdom’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, having just opened up to international tourism in September 2019: “While the travel and tourism sector was paralysed globally, Saudi Arabia kept moving. Although the priority was to save lives, we were also committed to protecting livelihoods and saving jobs through our successful domestic tourism campaign, which resulted in a 33% increase in spending, hotel occupancy was at 50%, and the number of Destination Marketing Companies (DMCs) within the Kingdom increased from 17 to 93.”

The domestic market strength was underscored in 2020 and Q1 2021, with SAUDIA operating its 28 domestic airports at close to 80% of its 2019 levels, and demand exceeding capacity at times. The numbers are expected to pick up even further with the recent resumption of international travel for residents and citizens and the operation of the new King Abdulaziz International Airport (KAIA) as a true regional hub.

Discussing the outlook for SAUDIA, CEO Captain Ibrahim Koshy said: “There are many things taking place in Saudi Arabia that will accelerate a return to profit for the airline. We will come out much leaner and stronger as a business, with expected profitability in 2024, if not earlier, as the potential market for the Kingdom continues to grow at a fast pace. We may also see aircraft orders this year to meet that expected demand in capacity.”

The second session of the ATM Saudi Arabia Tourism Summit on the ATM Global Stage explored the “giga-project effect”, from developments that preserve and promote the Kingdom’s heritage, culture and natural assets to theme parks, futuristic cities in the desert and luxury resorts with a strong focus on sustainability.

“This was a great opportunity for panellists to reveal how the country is setting new global industry benchmarks and for the travel trade industry to meet the business leaders playing a pivotal role in delivering Vision 2030 by spearheading ambitious projects that will set Saudi Arabia apart as a destination like no other,” said Danielle Curtis, Exhibition Director ME, Arabian Travel Market,

The ATM 2021 Saudi Arabia Tourism Summit continues next week (Monday 24 May) during ATM Virtual. With the long-term tourism outlook in Saudi Arabia more bullish than ever, hotel industry heavyweights will discuss the vast potential for new and innovative hospitality concepts that keep pace with this demand and fast-changing guest demographics, now and in the future.

About Arabian Travel Market (ATM):

Arabian Travel Market (ATM), now on its 28th year, continues to be the focal point for the Middle East’s resilient and ever-changing travel and tourism landscape and prides itself on being the hub of all travel and tourism ideas, providing a platform to discuss insights on the ever-changing industry, share innovations and unlock endless business opportunities. Arabian Travel Market is part of Arabian Travel Week.

Next in-person event: Sunday 16 to Wednesday 19 May 2021, Dubai World Trade Centre, Dubai 

Next virtual event: Monday 24 to Wednesday 26 May 2021

About Arabian Travel Week:

Arabian Travel Week is a festival of events taking place within and alongside Arabian Travel Market 2021. It includes ATM Virtual, Arival Dubai and Travel Forward – a new travel tech and hospitality innovation event launching this year. It also features the ATM Buyer Forums, GBTA as well as The Saudi and China Summits. Providing a renewed focus for the Middle East’s travel and tourism sector, Arabian Travel Week will take place in Dubai from Sunday 16th to Thursday 26th May 2021.

About Reed Exhibitions Global:

Reed Exhibitions is a leading global events business. It combines face-to-face with data and digital tools to help customers learn about markets, source products and complete transactions at over 400 events in 22 countries across 43 industry sectors, attracting more than 7 million participants. Our events leverage industry expertise, large data sets and technology to enable our customers to connect face-to-face or digitally and generate billions of dollars of revenues for the economic development of local markets and national economies around the world. Reed Exhibitions is part of RELX, a global provider of information-based analytics for professional and business customers. 

About RELX:

RELX is a global provider of information-based analytics and decision tools for professional and business customers. The Group serves customers in more than 180 countries and has offices in about 40 countries. It employs over 33,000 people, of whom almost half are in North America. The shares of RELX PLC, the parent company, are traded on the London, Amsterdam and New York Stock Exchanges using the following ticker symbols: London: REL; Amsterdam: REN; New York: RELX.  The market capitalisation is approximately £33bn, €39bn, $47bn.*

About World Travel Market:

World Travel Market (WTM) Portfolio comprises leading travel events, online portals and virtual platforms across four continents, generating more than $7.5 billion of industry deals. The events are:

WTM London, the leading global event for the travel industry, is the must-attend three-day exhibition for the worldwide travel and tourism industry. Around 50,000 senior travel industry professionals, government ministers and international media visit ExCeL London every November, generating over £3.71 billion in travel industry contracts. 

Next event: Monday 1 November to 3 November 2021 at ExCel London

WTM Virtual, is the WTM Portfolio virtual platform, created to offer global delegates the chance to arrange one-to-one virtual meetings, to do business, attend conference sessions and roundtables, take part in speed networking and more. WTM Virtual embrace the global leading travel shows in one platform.

WTM Latin America attracts around 19,000 participants – 11,586 unique. The trade show, which takes place in São Paulo, has a worldwide audience that meets to establish the direction of the travel industry. The event is recognised for attracting a high level of professionals from the segment, including buyers and travel agents. It also offers programmes with qualified content and plenty of opportunities for networking and generating business that is relevant to the travel industry.

Next event: Tuesday 3 to Thursday 5 August 2021 – Expo Center Norte, São Paulo

WTM Africa launched in 2014 in Cape Town, South Africa. More than 6,000 travel industry professionals attend Africa’s leading inbound and outbound travel and tourism market. WTM Africa delivers a proven mix of hosted buyers, media, pre-scheduled appointments, on-site networking, evening functions and invited travel trade visitors.

Next event: Wednesday 7 to Friday 9 April 2021 – Cape Town International Convention Centre, Cape Town