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Is Saudi Arabia becoming a global tourism hot spot?

By 2034, the kingdom's tourism sector will contribute $222.9 billion to the GDP, making up 16% of the economy.

Is Saudi Arabia becoming a global tourism hot spot?
[Source photo: Krishna Prasad/Fast Company Middle East]

Saudi Arabia is witnessing increasing interest in tourism and breaking past records. As a part of diversifying its economy, the country is upscaling its travel and tourism sector, which surged by over 32% in 2023. It is 11.5% of the total economy and contributed $118.4 billion to the nation’s gross domestic product (GDP), according to data revealed by The World Travel and Tourism Council’s 2024 Economic Impact Research, which discussed achievements secured for the kingdom’s GDP contribution, employment, and visitor spending. 

In 2023, the kingdom received 100 million tourists, securing its Vision 2030 target seven years ahead of schedule. The goal was then increased to 150 million. 

Julia Simpson, WTTC president and CEO, said that last year’s achievements mark a significant moment in the Gulf state’s journey toward becoming a global tourism leader. 

“As the sector continues to expand, it promises to play a crucial role in the nation’s diversified economic future while contributing significantly to global travel and tourism development.” 

Saudi’s travel and tourism sector also witnessed a rise in employment, with 436,000 jobs added to exceed 2.5 million. This marks a 24% increase since the previous peak.

The report outlined that international visitor spending jumped by nearly 57%, reaching $60.6 billion. At the same time, domestic visitor spending grew 21.5% to $37.9 billion. 

The report predicted that this trend would continue in 2024, with GDP contributions expected to reach $132.7 billion. It also projected that employment would increase by more than 158,000 jobs.

By 2034, the kingdom’s tourism sector will contribute $222.9 billion to the GDP, making up 16% of the economy.  

Minister of Tourism of Saudi Arabia and Chairman of the Executive Council of UN Tourism, Ahmed Al-Khateeb said, “The latest data from WTTC provides further evidence of the rapid success we have achieved in transforming Saudi Arabia’s tourism industry.”

“Tourism is a key pillar of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 economic diversification plans and we have made great strides promoting investment in the sector – with more than $800 billion earmarked by 2030 – as well as creating new jobs and growing the contribution of tourism to GDP.”

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