Representatives from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia attended World Travel Market London (WTM) and told the world that the country is ready to welcome international tourists. Fahd Hamidaddin, CEO of the Saudi Tourism Authority, told the audience at WTM that their “ambitions are high. We are seeing far.” He said the destination is aiming to achieve 100 million visits by the end of 2030.
During the session called “Saudi Arabia: A Destination of the Future – Putting Sustainability First”, Hamidaddin issued a challenge to other destinations by saying that Saudi Arabis is trying to build a leading destination framed with sustainability.
Everybody talks about sustainability. Very few actually do something about itFahd Hamidaddin, CEO of the Saudi Tourism Authority
He also called for a ‘Tourism 20’, a sort of delegation of world leaders, similar to the G20, which was hosted by Saudi Arabia in 2020. For Hamidaddin the rationale behind his proposal was that at the G20, it was very clear that tourism was missing in the room.
Amr AlMadani, CEO of The Royal Commission for AlUla, one of the oldest cities in the Arabian Peninsula and home to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Hegra, highlighted the country’s commitment to sustainability. He said that going green and being sustainable was not a choice but the way forward.
“Saudi Arabia is taking very bold steps. We are going to be the largest tourism destination in the world, powered 100% by renewable energy The tech exists. All that’s lacking is the will,” said John Pagrano, CEO of The Red Sea Development Authority, a tourism project on an archipelago of more than 90 pristine islands, which will open its first resort of 16 hotels and 3,000 hotels next year.
For his part, Jerry Inzerillo, CEO of Diriyah Gate Development Authority, a US $20 billion tourism project that will showcase the country’s history through a curated mix of heritage, hospitality, education, retail and dining experiences. It is expected to have a population of more than 100,000 and attract 25 million visitors a year.
Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has been instrumental in helping shape the plan for the sustainable tourism destination the country wants to beJerry Inzerillo, CEO of Diriyah Gate Development Authority
Inzerillo said the Crown Prince’s approach was to seek the most expert Saudi talent and match it with international talent. While Saudi Arabia is a relatively unknown destination compared to other parts of the world, Hamidaddin said that visitors would be impressed with what they found.
He explained that 70% of the population is below the age of 35 and women play an important part in shaping the Saudi Arabia of the future. He noted that Vice Minister of Tourism is a woman, 43% of the total organization are women and the average age is 32.
A key market for Saudi Arabia is the growing cruise sector and Fawaz Farooqui, Managing Director of Cruise Saudi, said the region is proving to be very interesting for cruise lines that are always looking for new ports of call. During a session entitled “Expanding the Saudi Tourism Ecosystem”, Mr Farooqui said Saudi Arabia is uniquely positioned on the Red Sea and Arabian Gulf.
The Red Sea and Arabian Gulf are very attractive for cruise lines, which are always looking for new destinationsFawaz Farooqui, Managing Director of Cruise Saudi
There are currently four cruise ports in the country, with plans to increase the number to six by 2025. European passengers, including Italian, British, French and German, are just starting to experience the destination and Farooqui said he has had “huge interest” from operators in the South African, Australian and Canadian markets.