Industry Report: Saudi Arabia set to become tourism hotspot

Industry Report: Saudi Arabia set to become tourism hotspot

Saudi Arabia’s burgeoning tourism industry is set to get back on track to reach its ambitious targets, as four in 10 Brits say they would consider holidaying in the kingdom, reveals research released today (Monday 1 November) by WTM London.

The destination will see a boost to its plans this week as a host of travel companies say they are likely to sign business deals with Saudi Arabian firms at WTM London, which starts today and continues until Wednesday 3 November.

The optimistic outlook comes from the findings of two WTM London polls, one conducted among British consumers and the other with international travel trade professionals, which make up the WTM Industry Report.

The poll of 1,000 consumers found 42% of UK adults would consider going on holiday in Saudi Arabia. Another 19% said it would be unlikely but could be persuaded.

The poll of 676 trade professionals from countries around the world found that just over half (51%) were planning to have business conversations with Saudi enterprises at WTM London this week.

It was the most-cited destination, ahead of Italy in second place (48%) and Greece (38%).

The trade respondents also said they were likely to sign contracts with companies from Saudi Arabia, with the country scoring 3.9 out of five – again, the highest likelihood in the poll.

Furthermore, 40% of respondents said they are likely (30% extremely likely; 10% likely) to agree a contract with Saudi Arabia/Saudi Arabian organisations at WTM London.

The kingdom has been ramping up its trade activity in 2021 after the lockdowns of 2020.

Before 2019, tourism visas in Saudi Arabia were largely restricted to business travellers, expatriate workers and pilgrims visiting the cities of Mecca and Medina.

The country opened its borders to international tourists with the launch of its e-visa programme in September 2019.

On August 1, 2021, Saudi Arabia welcomed back tourists 18 months after tourism was suspended due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

It has set an ambitious target of 100 million tourists by 2030, as part of efforts to diversify its economy beyond fossil fuels.

As well as being home to Mecca and Medina, Islam’s two holiest cities, the country is developing “giga-projects” to develop the kingdom’s heritage, culture and natural assets as well as theme parks and luxury resorts.

Operators such as Explore now offer escorted tours in the country and its cruise sector is developing too – MSC Cruises and Emerald Cruises plan to operate itineraries featuring Saudi Arabia in the coming months.

And the Saudi Arabian city of AlUla has launched a travel trade hub and online training platform to help build awareness of the destination among UK travel agents.

Fahd Hamidaddin, Chief Executive of Saudi Tourism Authority addressed tourism industry professionals at ATM 2021 – the sister event of WTM London.

He said Saudi Arabia ran a successful domestic tourism campaign in 2020, and visitor numbers are expected to pick up further with the recent resumption of international travel.

As well as developing its tourism credentials, the kingdom is investing in global sports events to raise its profile.

In 2019, it hosted Anthony Joshua’s world heavyweight title fight and will stage its first Grand Prix race next month (December 2021) in the city of Jeddah

Simon Press, WTM London Exhibition Director, said: “It will be most encouraging for the Saudi delegation at WTM London to read the positive findings from both our consumer and travel trade polls. They both suggest that the massive investments in tourism are already paying dividends, and the deals that will be struck at WTM London will certainly help the destination along the way to reaching its ambitious targets.”




World Travel Market (WTM) Portfolio comprises leading travel events, online portals and virtual platforms across four continents, generating more than $7.5 billion of industry deals. The events are:

WTM London, the leading global event for the travel industry, is the must-attend three-day exhibition for the worldwide travel and tourism industry. Around 50,000 senior travel industry professionals, government ministers and international media visit ExCeL London every November, generating over £3.71 billion in travel industry contracts. In 2020, WTM Virtual facilitated 20,000+ meetings and held 42 live content sessions over the 3-days show.

Next live event: Monday 1 to 3 November 2021 at ExCel London

Next WTM Virtual: Monday 8 to 9 November 2021 – Virtual

Travel Forward London is the leading travel technology event, co-located with WTM London. Travel Forward is renowned for showcasing the next-generation technologies for the travel, tourism and hospitality industry. Over 19,000 travel officials and 150+ innovative solution providers attend for 3 days of cutting-edge insights, open debate and unrivalled networking opportunities. The combination of a 2-day conference, interactive exhibition and start-up showcase makes Travel Forward truly unique.

Next live event: Monday 1 November to Wednesday 3 November 2021 at ExCel London

Next Travel Forward Virtual: Monday 8 November to Tuesday 9 November 2021 – Virtual

London Travel Week, brought to you by WTM London, is the one-stop-shop for event hosts and visitors to be able to shape the next 12 months of travel together. The festival of events supports the global travel and tourism industry through capturing invaluable news and enhancing industry connections.

Next event: Friday 29 October – Friday 5 November 2021

WTM Virtualis the WTM Portfolio virtual platform, created to offer global delegates the chance to arrange one-to-one virtual meetings, to do business, attend conference sessions and roundtables, take part in speed networking and more. WTM Virtual embrace the global leading travel shows in one platform.

WTM Latin America takes place annually in São Paulo and attracts around 19,000 tourism professionals during a three-day event. The show offers qualified content, as well as networking and business opportunities. In its ninth edition – the first 100% virtual – WTM Latin America followed its focus on effective business generation and reached the milestone of 4,200 meetings held between buyers, travel agents and exhibitors.

Next event: Tuesday 5 to Thursday 7 April 2022 – Expo Center Norte, SP, Brazil

WTM Africa launched in 2014 in Cape Town, South Africa. More than 6,000 travel industry professionals attend Africa’s leading inbound and outbound travel and tourism market. WTM Africa delivers a proven mix of hosted buyers, media, pre-scheduled appointments, on-site networking, evening functions and invited travel trade visitors.

Next event: Monday 11 to Wednesday 13 April 2022 – Cape Town International Convention Centre, Cape Town

Arabian Travel Market (ATM), now on its 29th year, is the leading, international travel and tourism event in the Middle East for inbound and outbound tourism professionals. ATM 2021 showcased over 1,300 exhibiting companies from 62 countries across nine halls at Dubai World Trade Centre, with visitors from more than 140 countries over the four days. Arabian Travel Market is part of Arabian Travel Week. #IdeasArriveHere

Next in-person event: Sunday 8 to Wednesday 11 May 2022, Dubai World Trade Centre, Dubai

Arabian Travel Week is a festival of events taking place within and alongside Arabian Travel Market 2022. Providing a renewed focus for the Middle East’s travel and tourism sector, it includes ATM Virtual, ILTM Arabia, Arival Dubai, Influencers’ events and activations, as well as Travel Forward. It also features the ATM Buyer Forums, ATM Speed Networking Events as well as a series of country summits.

WTM Global Hub, is the new WTM Portfolio online portal created to connect and support travel industry professionals around the world. The resource hub offers the latest guidance and knowledge to help exhibitors, buyers and others in the travel industry face the challenges of the global coronavirus pandemic. WTM Portfolio is tapping into its global network of experts to create content for the hub.

About RX (Reed Exhibitions)

RX is in the business of building businesses for individuals, communities and organisations. We elevate the power of face to face events by combining data and digital products to help customers learn about markets, source products and complete transactions at over 400 events in 22 countries across 43 industry sectors. RX is passionate about making a positive impact on society and is fully committed to creating an inclusive work environment for all our people. RX is part of RELX, a global provider of information-based analytics and decision tools for professional and business customers.


RELX is a global provider of information-based analytics and decision tools for professional and business customers. The Group serves customers in more than 180 countries and has offices in about 40 countries. It employs over 33,000 people, of whom almost half are in North America. The shares of RELX PLC, the parent company, are traded on the London, Amsterdam and New York Stock Exchanges using the following ticker symbols: London: REL; Amsterdam: REN; New York: RELX. The market capitalisation is approximately £33bn, €39bn, $47bn.*

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