Saudi Arabia has been working on revitalizing its tourism sector and data can now prove that its efforts are hugely paying off.
This week, numbers published by STR, a firm specialized in the statistics of hospitality sectors, revealed that hotels in the kingdom's capital Riyadh hit their highest November occupancy rates in 12 years. With Riyadh Season alone taking place in the city from October until January, it's quite normal to see an influx of tourists and locals who reside in other cities.
Rates soared to 82.8 percent, increasing by a whopping 34.6 percent and recording their highest level since 2007. Demand for hotel stays in the city also saw a sharp 55-percent increase.
The newly released numbers showed that there were remarkable growths in all factors when it comes to how the Riyadh hospitality scene is doing.
The average daily rates (ADR) in Riyadh rose by more than 11 percent in November to 685.91 Saudi riyals ($182.83). Revenues per available room also skyrocketed by around 50 percent, reaching 568.19 Saudi riyals ($151.45) compared to the same month last year.
STR analysts explained that the Gulf nation is experiencing a positive shift in hotel performance thanks to Saudi Vision 2030, an ambitious blueprint put forth by Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman in 2016. The plan is centered on diversifying the country's economy, shifting it from solely depending on oil-generated revenues to focusing on growing other public sectors including tourism.
A key goal under the vision is to increase the number of tourists and revenues generated from tourism to 18 percent in the next 14 years. With a quick glance at recent happenings, the country seems to be right on track with this goal. Earlier this year, STR indicated that Jeddah hotels were close to recording their highest occupancy rate in three years.
Before announcing the new tourist visa regulations, the kingdom announced that old rules - that still apply to nationals in the country - will no longer affect tourists. For example, female tourists will not need to wear abayas; unmarried foreign couples are now allowed to share a hotel room.
Saudi Arabia's tourism sector is set to boom further
In October, the Chief Executive of the World Travel and Tourism Council, Gloria Guevara, revealed that the tourism sector is set to account for 5 percent of the kingdom's GDP by 2021.
Traveling to Saudi Arabia was previously restricted to business-related purposes or religious ones but that's no longer the case. In fact, the Gulf nation has been slowly inviting tourists to enjoy the many activities, summer festivals, sporting events, and concerts that it's been hosting.
The country is also currently working on developing its Red Sea coast into a luxury beach destination governed by "independent laws." The project aims at transforming Saudi Arabia's Red Sea coastline into a global tourism hotspot, with luxury hotels and pristine beaches.