Saudi Arabia is a relatively new destination on the global stage. As the authentic home of Arabia, Saudi offers unique, diverse, and unparalleled experiences, a land of natural assets, rich culture and heritage and adventure. To bring to light the Saudi offering, the Saudi Tourism Authority (STA) has recently launched ‘Journeys in Arabia’, an online event, curated especially for travel trade partners around the globe. TTJ engaged with a spokesperson from STA to know how India falls in their plan of action, as it has been identified as one of the key source markets for Saudi Arabia.
– Prashant Nayak
What are the strategies and plans being worked out/implemented to promote Saudi Arabia to the global traveller?
STA: In January 2021, we launched the biggest international destination marketing campaign in the country’s history. The goal of our ‘Welcome to Arabia’ campaign is to build awareness of Saudi in key source markets as a warm, welcoming, fascinating leisure destination that offers a unique and diverse range of cultural heritage, adventure and nature experiences. Running across North America, Europe, Asia and the GCC, the campaign targets travellers seeking great outdoors, wide-open spaces, inspiring views and authentic experiences.
We know that while border and travel restrictions exist for most countries around the world, people are still dreaming of travel and this campaign aims to inspire so that when travel safely resumes, Saudi is top of mind.
We are investing in developing strong relationships with key partners in the travel trade sector in all of our priority source markets. We are in the process of building a network of international offices, responsible for both trade and consumer marketing activities, to expand the reach and relevance of Saudi’s tourism offer.
Each market will be tasked with developing a tailored, strategic approach to most effectively engage with their target audiences, whether it be workshops, roadshows, and training, marketing campaign, or FAM trips.
When an Indian arrives in Saudi as a leisure tourist, what he /she should expect?
STA: Saudi has a diverse and exciting offering when it comes to culture and heritage. The country is home to five UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and a further 11 sites on the UNESCO tentative list.
As we develop this aspect of our offering, Hegra in AlUla and Diriyah on the outskirts of Riyadh are spotlight projects for tourists considering a visit to Saudi in the coming months.
Hegra, once the southern capital of the Nabataean kingdom, officially opened to leisure tourism in October 2020. Located in AlUla, there are several exciting infrastructure projects in the pipeline, such as French architect Jean Nouvel’s luxury resort in the Sharaan Reserve and Singapore luxury hotel group Aman’s three eco-focused resorts.
Diriyah, the birthplace of the Saudi state, aims to become one of the region’s foremost destinations for historical and cultural knowledge-sharing activities and international events.
Is your organisation especially working on facilitating ‘ease of travel’ for the Indian audience in terms of visa or connectivity or relaxing some rules?
STA: In September 2019, the tourist e-visa was introduced. The launch of the e-visa was a significant milestone in the opening up of the Kingdom. From September 21 09 to March 2020, we had issued more than 400,000 tourism visas, and we are confident that we will exceed this target once borders re-open.
Visitors from 49 countries can apply for the visit visa online, while other nationalities can apply for the visa at the Saudi embassy or consulate in their home country.
Presently, how is your organisation tackling the COVID-19 situation?
STA: We continue to work closely with the Ministry of Health on health and safety standards. The Ministry has put in place comprehensive protocols for establishments to provide visitors and their families with a safe experience, which are aligned with the guidelines recommended by the WTTC.
- Free healthcare is provided to anyone in Saudi Arabia (citizens and visitors alike) affected by COVID-19
- Tracking and testing apps have been introduced to help people assess their health and manage any quarantine requirements
The Saudi tourism e-visa process is 100 per cent digital, ensuring the reduction of touchpoints ahead of travel and upon arrivals
What are your targets set for the global leisure tourist footfalls as well as the Indian travellers?
STA: We aim to achieve 100 million annual visits to the Kingdom by 2030, made up of both domestic and international travellers.
To achieve this goal, we have developed a comprehensive strategy to drive the number of visits, increase spend and build a leading tourism brand for Saudi.
We have identified 15 priority leisure source markets spanning the GCC region, Asia, North America, and Europe. This is broken down further into three target segments, leisure, MICE, and spiritual travel.
Since opening our doors to leisure tourism in September 2019, STA has unveiled many new destinations and experiences for audiences from home and abroad.
The campaigns highlight what Saudi has to offer today – its rich culture, deep heritage, diversity of landscapes and unparalleled hospitality. It is the authentic home of Arabia: a place of exploration, of unique experiences. This is what we want the world to discover about Saudi.
Anything else to share?
STA: In alignment with the Ministry of Tourism, STA is rapidly laying the foundations for a thriving tourism ecosystem that will drive economic growth, create inclusive and sustainable employment and attract investment, while preserving the environment and the livelihood of local communities.
Our approach is rooted in an understanding that the tourism sector needs to safeguard the environments, cultures and communities that underpin its appeal.
All tourism developments are being examined through the lens of sustainability. The destination scale initiatives like the Red Sea, NEO, Qiddiya, Amaala, AlUla and Diriyah have sustainability at the core and are setting new global standards in managing the relationship between tourism and the environment.