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Saudi Arabia hits record 100 million tourists in 2023

The kingdom welcomed 27.4 million international tourists in 2023, marking a 65% increase compared to the previous year.

Saudi Arabia hits record 100 million tourists in 2023
[Source photo: Pankaj Kirdatt/Fast Company Middle East]

Saudi Arabia is reshaping its tourism sector, with an ambitious target of 150 million visitors by 2030 after surpassing its Vision 2030 target of 100 million visitors seven years ahead of schedule. 

This extraordinary feat, recognized by the UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), solidifies its position as a rising star in the global tourism industry.

According to the Saudi Ministry of Tourism, the kingdom welcomed a record-breaking 27.4 million international tourists in 2023, a 65% increase compared to the previous year. Domestic tourism thrived, with 79.3 million visitors contributing to a 2% year-on-year increase.

Collectively, these visitors generated over $67 billion in spending. Tourism now accounts for over 4% of Saudi Arabia’s GDP and 7% of its non-oil GDP.

This remarkable growth can be attributed to the kingdom’s strategic investments and reforms, revitalizing the tourism sector. The demand for tourism activity licenses skyrocketed by 390% in 2023, reflecting its growing appeal as a tourist destination.

Moreover, tourism’s contribution to the non-oil GVA has surpassed 7%, highlighting its growing importance to the economy beyond oil. 

Additionally, it spearheaded the Middle East’s swift recovery from the pandemic’s impact on tourism. The Middle East is the only region to surpass pre-pandemic tourist arrival levels, witnessing a remarkable 122% recovery in 2023 compared to 2019. Saudi Arabia led the region with a staggering 156% jump in international arrivals.

Employment generation in the tourism sector has been a cornerstone of Saudi Arabia’s success. The kingdom aims to make tourism its second-largest employer by 2030, a goal supported by creating over 925,500 jobs and ongoing investments in workforce development.

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