A Middle East’s powerhouse, Saudi Arabia ‘s balance of payments for tourism more than tripled in the first half of 2023, compared to the year before. Data released by the Saudi Central Bank, also known as SAMA, reveals a treasure of SR40 billion (€10.13 billion).
The surge was mainly due to an increase of foreign tourists. Between January and June, foreign visitors’ expenditures in the Arab country amounted to €22.32 billion, a substantial increase from €9.21 billion recorded in the corresponding period in 2022.
The balance of payments for tourism marked a 34 percent rise in the second quarter to €6.46 billion compared to the same quarter last year, with foreigners spending €11.79 billion in the same period.
1. World’s second tourism growth rate
This progress comes amid Saudi Arabia’s rise to the second position globally in terms of the growth rate of incoming tourists during the first seven months of 2023. According to the Ministry of Tourism, the country saw a 58 percent increase in tourist numbers up to the end of July compared to the same period in 2019. The data was sourced last month from the UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) and came from the UNWTO World Tourism Barometer.
2. World Tourism Day
Riyadh also hosted World Tourism Day on September 27-28, reflecting the Kingdom’s commitment to the global tourism sector. Saudi Tourism Minister Ahmed Al-Khateeb said the ranking strengthened the country’s status as a global tourist destination. Al-Khateeb noted the achievement “would not have been possible without the support of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman and the Crown Prince”, reported the Saudi Press Agency.
Saudi Arabia is confident the substantial rise in arrivals reflected travelers’ confidence in the variety and quality of tourism options available across the Kingdom.
These achievements, however, are not a spontaneous occurrence but a result of the country’s significant efforts to boost its tourism industry, a key component of its Vision 2030 plan, aiming to attract 100 million visitors by the end of 2030. The plan foresees initiatives including the promotion of Saudi Arabia’s rich historical and cultural heritage, hosting various music festivals and sports events and investing in tourism infrastructure to accommodate the growing number of tourists.
3. Investing in tourism
To unleash the country has a touristic powerhouse, Saudi Arabia has sought foreign and domestic investments in the sector, fostering partnerships with international hospitality and tourism companies. Speaking at the France-Saudi Investment Forum in Paris in June, Al-Khateeb highlighted the tourism sector’s exponential growth and record-breaking figures: “We’re expecting 2024 to be another record year in travel and tourism. We plan to move forward to reach a growth of 130 percent of the current level by 2032.”
Regulatory changes, such as the relaxation of visa restrictions and updates to tourism-related regulations, have further supported the growth of the tourism industry. The Middle Eastern country says that the efforts have begun to yield results, with a noticeable increase in tourist arrivals and tourism-related activities in the country.