Saudi Arabia has been steering its efforts towards its tourism sector, which is expected to contribute $70.9 billion to the kingdom's GDP in 2019.

International arrivals are expected to increase 5.6 percent per year, reaching 23.3 million by 2023, as reported by Arab News. The biggest contributor to the sector is, and will continue to be over the next decade, religious tourism. By 2030, Saudi Arabia is expected to host 30 million pilgrims. Previously, the numbers were at 19 million pilgrims, from both hajj and umrah, in 2017.

"More relaxed access to visas and the growth of the umrah market are expected to be key drivers in the growth of international tourism in the kingdom," said Danielle Curtis, Middle East exhibition director at the Arabian Travel Market (ATM), according to Arab News.

What about leisure tourism?

Under Vision 2030, Saudi Arabia has been pushing its leisure tourism sector forward. 

In 2017, the kingdom announced its plans to transform the Red Sea coast into a luxury beach destination governed "by independent laws." The project aims to transform 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.

Saudi Arabia will also witness an increase in the number of hotels and resorts in the country. On Sunday, New York-listed Hyatt said it plans to double the number of hotels it operates in Saudi Arabia, and is set to open five new properties by 2023.

Under Vision 2030, Saudi Arabia aims to reduce its dependence on oil, and tourism is one sector the kingdom has been attentive to. 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. 

One Saudi city was named "Capital of Arab Tourism" for 2019

In December, the Saudi city of Al-Ahsa was named the "Capital of Arab Tourism" for 2019.

Al-Ahsa is a traditional oasis and historical area situated in eastern Saudi Arabia. It is known for its lush greenery and water springs. Its name is also used by the Al-Ahsa Governorate, which takes up the majority of the kingdom's eastern province. 

The city has received attention on more than one occasion. In 2016, Al-Ahsa was named "most creative city in the world" by the United Nations. In July 2018, UNESCO listed it as a World Heritage Site - becoming the 5th site in the kingdom to be given the status.