Tourism in Saudi Arabia—In announcing her appointment as Saudi Arabia’s top tourism advisor, Gloria Guevara departed the World Travel & Tourism Council. The Saudis had hired “the most powerful woman in tourism.”
That’s in large part because Saudi Arabia didn’t make its decision to become a global powerhouse carelessly either.
Speaking from her office in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia’s capital, Guevara stated that her years of experience in the travel and tourism sector taught her that countries need three things for success: vision from their leadership, the proper people to implement the idea, and sufficient resources.
When only one of those three is available, it might be “tough,” she said. “You see countries in difficulty – they may lack resources but possess strong leadership. You have the resources, but you lack the leadership and vision to make the most of those resources.
“However, when you mix the three things, things move quickly.”
She’s never seen it before, but apparently, it’s in place in Saudi Arabia. “Out of this world,” she said, was her description of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s tourist vision and dedication. A former bank CEO, Tourism Minister Ahmed Al-Khateeb, “understands how the private sector operates and tourism’s benefits.” “The leadership is fantastic,”
Another consideration is how much money is at your disposal. Through the year 2030, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has set aside $1 trillion for the travel and tourist industry.
As a comparison, “it is almost the GDP of Mexico,” Guevara noted. This is a lot of cash.”
The Beginnings of Enhanced Tourism in Saudi Arabia
First Westerners were granted visas in 2019 as part of the crown prince’s attempt to open up the conservative Muslim country.
To diversify the country’s oil-dominated economy, the Vision 2030 plan includes a massive tourism investment: As of 2030, there will be an additional 500,000 hotel rooms and six “Giga projects,” including the Red Sea Development Project, an eco-focused luxury site encompassing 22 islands and plans for 50 hotels and an international airport; QIddiya, an $8 billion city for entertainment, sports, and the arts; Amaala, an ultraluxury wellness resort area along the northwestern Red Sea coast; and AlUla, an open-air archaeological, cultural and touristic complex in the region with its namesake city and Unesco World Heritage Site.
At the heart of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 was the creation of Cruise Saudi, an initiative designed to bring luxury cruise ships to ports along the Red Sea and Persian Gulf coasts.
One of the most comprehensive tourism strategies ever devised coincided with the outbreak of the Covid epidemic in early 2020.
Despite this, the momentum continued to build.
Diriyah Gate Development Authority hired Imran Changezi in February 2020, one month before international travel was halted, to serve as the director of business development for hospitality. We have been told that there will be no pause in our work, and we will continue with the full power of our effort,” Changezi stated.
Interesting hotel chains were invited to submit proposals is July 2020, and by January 2021, the authority had signed its first management agreements. According to the source, the first 14 hotels will be on board by the end of 2021.
“It’s not a saturated market,” Changezi remarked when he approached the brands. For brands, it’s an excellent opportunity to enter one of the world’s most powerful economies.
According to STR, Saudi Arabia currently boasts the world’s largest hotel pipeline, and the government expects a 67 percent rise in room supply over the next three years, totaling more than 70,000 rooms, by staying the course and maintaining an emphasis on its long-term aim.
According to the company’s head of hospitality, Tom Ito, Hotel Al Khozama in Riyadh, and Indigo Hotel in Riyadh are two examples of Gensler Hospitality’s work in Saudi Arabia.
It noted that Saudi Arabia’s history and culture are reflected in some of the architecture, design, and style that clients have requested. On the other hand, we have projects in Saudi Arabia that are unique and innovative from a design and character standpoint because they are so forward-looking.”
The megaprojects are a significant driver of hotel growth in Saudi Arabia. There are plans to build 38 hotels in the ancient Saudi Najdi architectural style by the Diriyah Gate Development Authority. Six Senses, Ritz-Carlton, Park Hyatt, Baccarat Hotels and Resorts, Orient Express, and Oberoi are among the first 14 brands introduced in the Middle East. Diriyah will also have an Aman and the first LXR hotel from Hilton, which said in December that it would expand its Saudi Arabia presence from 15 to 75 hotels. After its completion in 2028, the Red Sea resort Amaala will have 2,500 luxurious hotel rooms available.
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia expects the number of religious tourists to jump from 17 million to 30 million by 2025, and Hilton is one of the hotel chains hoping to benefit from this anticipated growth. Hilton, which has had a presence in the country since 1995, believes it is in an excellent position to take advantage of the influx of new tourists to Mecca and Medina.
Religious Tourism in Saudi Arabia
According to Kamel Ajami, Hilton’s vice president for Saudi Arabia operations: “Religious tourism in Saudi Arabia is unique in comparison to other markets, and naturally, it is of utmost importance to us, with our personnel experienced in providing exceptional hospitality for pilgrims.”
Cruise Last Summer, the first international cruise ships docked in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia’s second-largest city, due to Saudi’s investment.
One of MSC Cruises’ newest and largest ships, the 4,500-passenger MSC Bellisima, was launched from Jeddah in 2013, adding to the company’s original plan to base the MSC Magnifica there.
VP of worldwide sales for MSC, Achille Staiano, described Saudi Arabia and the Red Sea as “very crucial for us, and there is huge untapped potential in this market.” Additionally, he said that the line’s effort to “make new places available” to guests is fueled by Saudi cruises.
Because of the country’s “difficult, checkered, and poor experience with human rights,” Bush felt it was vital to meet with the general public before taking office.
To better comprehend how women are treated, he added, “I wanted to go and witness for myself.” It has been my experience that people are people no matter where they come from or what they look like. If you’re able to sit down with a group to eat and converse, you learn so much more about history, people, culture, and the world as a whole.”
Asked about these concerns by his clients, Bush said he wanted to see the destination for himself. Astonishment washed through him as he described his reaction. “I was also traveling with a few single women, and they didn’t feel frightened at all. As a result, “we were able to see how swiftly this country is evolving and how it aspires to be a player on the world stage,” says the author.
Bush claimed that several of the Uber drivers and the helicopter pilot on his tour of AlUla were women. Women no longer have to cover their hair or wear an abaya, among other changes.
According to Guevara, if Saudi Arabia weren’t serious about improving human rights in general, she wouldn’t have accepted her position or relocated her family there. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, she added, has fulfilled his promises in this area by allowing women to drive and travel on their own, as well as instituting hiring regulations.
A few years ago, the Saudi Tourism Authority had urged me to join, but I decided to wait.
Guevara remarked, “I wanted to see the evidence.” As far as I was concerned, I wanted to see if they lived up to their end of the bargain, and in many cases, they have exceeded my expectations.