Saudi Arabia has been publicizing its openness to tourism on many different fronts in a bid to reach its goals of generating revenues from the sector.
In statements made recently, the President and Chief Executive of the World Travel and Tourism Council revealed that the field is set to account for 5 percent of the country's GDP by 2021. Speaking to The National, earlier this week, Gloria Guevara explained that the kingdom's promotional efforts are definitely working.
"We will see an interesting growth based on changes they made on visas ... and millions of new jobs will be created," she said.
The statements came just days after the kingdom officially opened its doors to tourists. After much speculation, Saudi Arabia finally announced a new plan allowing visa-free travel for tourists from 49 countries last week. These visas are now available online, on arrival, or at Saudi diplomatic missions for about $120 — a fee that includes health insurance coverage.
A key goal under Vision 2030 is to increase the number of tourists who visit the kingdom and revenues generated from the sector to 18 percent in the next 14 years. Under the ambitious blueprint, Saudi Arabia is expected to host up to 1.5 million tourists by 2020. Now while much of that number comes from religious tourism, this doesn't mean effort hasn't been put into the growth of the leisure tourism sector. In fact, the kingdom has been slowly inviting tourists to enjoy the many activities, summer festivals, sporting events, and concerts.
At the end of last year, the kingdom announced it will begin offering electronic visas for foreign visitors who wish to attend sporting events and concerts. In December, the kingdom launched the visa service for visitors for the motoring event Formula E and saw 1,000 tourists from 80 countries land in the kingdom.
This summer, Saudi Arabia did the same thing when the Jeddah Season festival began. All attendees from abroad were granted a visa online upon purchasing an event ticket.
Saudi's tourism push has been paying off
There have been reports of an increase in the number of travelers entering Saudi Arabia this year. In August, hotels located in Saudi Arabia's Jeddah were expected to record their highest occupancy rate in three years based on preliminary date revealing that there was a significant increase in the city's hotel occupancy in July.
The country is now building a huge tourism project along the Red Sea
The kingdom is 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.
Construction work on the project began earlier this year. The first phase is expected to be completed by the end of 2022 including the development of hotels and luxury residential units, as well as all logistical infrastructure including air, land, and sea transport hubs.
The project is set to be fully completed by 2030 and has already been getting rave reviews from people who've seen how it's slowly materializing into reality.