In a statement, Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Tourism Ahmed bin Aqeel Al-Khateeb announced that the tourism sector in the kingdom has achieved its target of hosting 100 million tourists in 2023. This figure includes domestic visitors and international tourists, who collectively spent SAR100bn.
“We have reached 100 million tourists this year, 77 million from home, 27 million from abroad, over 100 million,”Al Khateeb said at a conference organised by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, describing the 2023 figures.
Saudi Arabia targets 150 million visitors by 2030
Participating in a ministerial session titled “The Importance of the Private Sector in Achieving Vision 2030” at the second edition of the Public Investment Fund (PIF) and Private Sector Forum, Al-Khateeb highlighted the new strategy set by the Crown Prince and Prime Minister Mohammed bin Salman to attract 150 million tourists by 2030, with 80 million domestic and 70 million international tourists.
Al-Khateeb mentioned, “Definitely the expanding of the middle class in India and China will encourage further travel. The World Travel and Tourism Council is expecting international arrivals to double by 2032, which is very attractive for us.” He emphasised the kingdom’s commitment to funding training programs, with over 100,000 young individuals trained last year, including 15,000 trained in top institutes worldwide to join the tourism sector.
He also acknowledged the role of the Human Resources Development Fund in increasing salaries.
Additionally, Al-Khateeb emphasised ongoing efforts to improve legislation and encourage investment, highlighting the establishment of the Tourism Development Fund, which has financed more than 50 projects totaling SAR35bn, making investment in the tourism sector more appealing globally.
The announcement comes less than five years after the kingdom fully opened up to tourism. However, there are ongoing concerns about the Israel crisis and its potential to affect the wider region.
Tourism plays a significant role in Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s Vision 2030 reform agenda, which aims to transition the world’s biggest oil exporter away from fossil fuels and prepare for a post-oil future. The Saudi government has committed nearly $800bn towards infrastructure development for tourism purposes, and announced plans for a new airport in Riyadh to handle 120 million passengers by 2030.
Saudi Arabia, home to Islam’s holiest sites in Mecca and Medina, has traditionally welcomed pilgrims and business travelers.
The country introduced a general tourism visa in 2019, shortly before the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, which severely impacted the global tourism industry.
The kingdom fully removed the pandemic-era restrictions in 2023, and has announced a slew of projects to boost the tourism sector which continues to evolve as part of broader economic reforms.
Saudi Arabia’s economic prospects are positive for the year ahead, according to the World Bank’s latest projections. The kingdom’s economy is expected to expand by 4.1 per cent this year, contributing to an anticipated 3.6 per cent rise in the combined GDP of GCC countries.