The strong demand for travel in 2023 has set high expectations for a bullish appetite for short and long vacation breaks, adventure holidays, and immersive experiences — especially amid a rising appeal for less-traversed landscapes and countries.
Globally, travel is set to become a $15.5tn industry by the end of the year, accounting for nearly 12 per cent of the global economy and representing a 50 per cent increase in value since 2019.
A significant wave of growth is also evident in the GCC region and the broader Middle East and North Africa region where the sector is poised for a transformative year. The ongoing geopolitical realities have not dampened the travel demand, especially in core markets in the region, and prices and occupancy continue to be on the high end.
In the fourth quarter of 2023, the Middle East shifted to growth mode with international arrivals up by 4 per cent, much ahead of the global average of 3 per cent.
In Saudi Arabia, we are witnessing sustained demand for inbound and outbound travel, and visitor arrivals remain steady as before. The kingdom’s investments in the tourism sector are bearing fruit and the country was named among the top 10 tourism destinations globally and listed fifth in global rankings for international arrivals in 2023, compared to 2019.
A surge in visitor numbers is on the cards both in Saudi Arabia and the wider region when the announced unified GCC tourist visa begins to be implemented. Going forward, this game-changing initiative that facilitates and provides a seamless experience for both residents and tourists among the six GCC countries will bolster tourism and reshape the travel landscape of the region.
Almosafer to build on strong foundations
As the Middle East’s leading travel company that works across the Saudi travel ecosystem, Almosafer enters 2024 on a high note having achieved robust financial results for the third quarter of 2023. With a net booking value of SAR2bn, this marked yet another quarter of growth for Almosafer.
In the year ahead, we will build on the strong foundations of our consumer travel vertical, as we further grow our diversified travel businesses by leveraging all the opportunities for growth within each of our business entities.
The great economies of scale that this business model provides will be pivotal in forging partnerships with stakeholders across the industry and allied sectors as we look to combine resources and expertise to consolidate the business and open doors to new markets and customer segments.
Underlying these priorities is the commitment to drive the growth of Saudi Arabia’s tourism industry through industry partnerships, advanced digital offerings, market expansion, and delivering exceptional experiences for our consumers — including prioritising preference for personalised and experiential travel needs.
The year 2024 will see us move beyond our core consumer markets of Saudi Arabia and Kuwait to cater to the wider GCC market as we continue our growth as a digitally-driven company.
If 2023 was the year of cautious optimism for the travel and tourism industry, despite regional headwinds, 2024 will reinforce the role of tourism as a driving force of socio-economic development for all nations.