Saudi Arabia wants to be the next big travel destination, here’s how they’re doing it

Historically conservative and closed off, the wind of change is sweeping the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Under the guidance of its visionary leader, Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman (MBS), Saudi Arabia has recognized the importance of diversifying its economy to embrace the post-oil horizon.

Through Saudi Vision 2030, Saudi Arabia seeks to become the next El Dorado for tourism. Here, we take a closer look at Saudi Arabia’s monumental scheme and strategies.

The Saudi Vision 2030

O Saudi Vision 2030 it is a strategic framework to reduce Saudi Arabia’s dependence on oil, diversify its economy and develop public service through vital sectors such as tourism, education, infrastructure and so on.

Among others, Saudi Vision 2030 aims to present Saudi Arabia as a more open, tolerant and secular country. Achieving this means focusing on developing the tourism industry in this ultra-conservative society that has traditionally been reluctant to welcome international visitors other than for pilgrimage and business-related visits.

As it stands, traveling to Saudi Arabia for leisure and tourism is as simple as securing your flights and hotels on reputable online booking platforms like We will.

mega projects

The Saudi government has poured billions of dollars and invested in mega tourism projects across the country envisioned by the crown prince himself.

case in question, NEOM, Saudi Arabia’s $500 billion futuristic megacities currently being built from scratch in Tabuk province. NEOM’s role as a futuristic smart city and tourist attraction will be complemented by its special status as an economic zone to host investments in cutting-edge technologies. The site is north of the Red Sea, east of Egypt across the Gulf of Aqaba, and south of Jordan.

In July 2017, the colossal Red Sea Project was announced by the Saudi government. Part of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030, the Red Sea Project is a massive luxury and sustainable tourism venture that encompasses a vast nature reserve comprised of around 90 pristine islands, dormant volcanoes, historic heritage sites and coral reef diving areas. Easily the size of Belgium, the mega-project is scheduled to welcome guests by the end of 2022, after the opening of the Red Sea International Airport.

Flanked by the Red Sea Project to the south and NEOM to the north, a luxury tourist development dubbed the Amaala Project will take guests on a journey of transformation through its sophisticated wellness retreats, luxury resorts and recreational activities. The luxurious wellness complex sits right in the center of an impressive 3,800 square kilometer nature reserve named after the Crown Prince.

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Rehabilitation of historic sites

For the Al Ula region, efforts were made to promote and encourage travelers to visit the ruins of an ancient carved city of Mada’in Saleh, which, like Petra, was built by the Nabateans around 2,000 years ago.

The port city of Yanbu, just a few hours from Madinah, offers an ancient spice route supposedly traveled by Lawrence of Arabia in the early years of the 20th century. Yanbu is also known for its oil refineries, industrial plants and its illuminated Souq Al streets. Lail (night market).

To give you more visibility, the saudi tourism authority is currently submitting a nomination to the UNESCO world heritage sites, namely the 6,000 year old oasis of Al Ahsa. Covered with 2.5 million date palms, travelers to Al Ahsa will be greeted by historic mosques, hot and cold springs, as well as panoramic views of the desert around and beyond.

Al Ahsa

With the government seemingly sparing no effort to alter the global tourism landscape, Saudi Arabia is determined to achieve the 2030 vision of an open and welcoming society where economic growth and development opportunities are perfectly aligned.

tourism initiatives

The stakes are now high with the goal of attracting 100 million tourists by 2030, including 55 million international visitors and 45 million domestic visitors. The Saudi government has taken steps and laid out plans to significantly increase demand for tourism in the coming years.

One of the most notable initiatives was the issuance of the Saudi tourist visa in September 2019, just before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. For the first time since the country’s founding, travelers from 49 countries had the opportunity to visit Saudi Arabia for non-religious tourism purposes. After a two-year break imposed by the pandemic, the Saudi visit visa is issued again.

Other fundamental changes were also introduced to boost tourism. These landmark changes can also be considered as social reforms, with unmarried couples now free to book and stay at any hotel in Saudi Arabia.

Additionally, women can travel to Saudi Arabia without a male guardian and there is no law for female travelers requiring them to wear a burqa/veil during their visit. Women can also drive now, which could allow female visitors to rent cars on their trips to Saudi Arabia.

However, alcohol remains a sensitive subject and authorities have yet to announce any changes. While this is pure conjecture, the Saudi government can only make concessions by establishing zones or areas where people can consume alcohol.

In addition, Saudi tourism authorities have been involved in numerous local and international tourism exhibitions, while managing and marketing tourist destinations, venues, packages, products and itineraries both internally and externally.

As a result, according to the official Saudi tourism website, more than 3,500 tourism investment permits have been granted so far.

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