Saudi Arabia launches new initiative for private sector tourism push

Saudi Tourism Authority has launched Tourism Shapers to equip more private sector involvement in ambitious plans

Saudi Tourism Authority (STA) has launched a new initiative aimed at encouraging more private sector companies to embrace the kingdom’s ambitions to become a global tourism player.

Tourism Shapers aims to support the learning and development of local travel trade partners in the tourism private sector.

As Saudi continues to develop its destination offering for local, regional and international audiences, the authority said it is now more important than ever to enable and empower the private sector.

“Across the kingdom, we are seeing different types of small-to-medium sized businesses transform their working models and offering so that tourism is at the heart of their core product,” said Fahd Hamidaddin, CEO of the Saudi Tourism Authority.

“Businesses are beginning to think differently about the future, recognizing the immense growth opportunities within the tourism sector and how they must adapt, evolve and innovate to meet the needs of their customer.”

Tourism Shapers aims to not only support the growth of the tourism ecosystem, but to inspire small-to-medium sized businesses in Saudi to recognise the opportunities within the industry.

Massive investment in mega tourism projects to the tune of $810 billion is expected to transform Saudi Arabia as one of the largest leisure tourism industries in the world over the next decade.

According to research conducted last year by the Middle East and North Africa Leisure Attractions Council (MENALAC), the leisure and entertainment industry council, new mega tourism projects will occupy an area in excess of 64,634 sq km.

Already, Saudi Arabia has taken big strides to attract overseas tourists, such as the launch of a tourist visa in 2019, and by hosting a series of high-profile sporting events such as Formula E, world heavyweight boxing and top European football matches.

The initiative began with a series of interactive webinars, designed to equip the audience with best practices, key insights, and information to keep them informed on the tourism industry’s evolution.

During the first session, keynote speaker Aya Sadder said: “Tourism is one of the fastest growing sectors in the world, it is constantly transforming and businesses must be ready to adapt. The future of the industry will focus on building more resilient communities and businesses through innovation, effective partnerships and readiness to embrace digitalisation.”

“The future of tourism is dependent on building partnerships at all levels,” added Hamidaddin. “Tourism Shapers is just one initiative through which STA is sharing ideas and insights that will help empower our partners to win their share of visitation.”

Mega projects driving Saudi Arabia’s tourism sector:

Neom, the $500 billion project, leads the list of the mega projects and once completed, will deliver a futuristic mega sustainable city. To be launched on the Red Sea from 2025, it is the largest and most ambitious smart city on the kingdom’s books and in the world. Backed by the Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund and international investors, the futuristic fully-digitised city is slated to contribute $100 billion to Saudi Arabia’s GDP by 2030.

The $10 billion Qiddiya will be spread across 334 sq km in Riyadh. In phase one alone, there are more than 45 projects, where visitors will have access to over 300 recreational and educational facilities including a Formula One-standard racing track, a 20,000-seat cliff-top stadium, an 18,000-seat indoor arena, an aquatic centre and a sports hub, as well as a 2,000-seat performing arts theatre and a cinema.

Amaala (Saudi Riviera), located in the northern region with an area of 3,800 sq km. Launched in September 2018, it is on track to meet its 2028 completion date. It features a total of 2,525 hotel keys and 1,496 residential units and will target ultra-high net worth individuals (UHNWIs).

The Red Sea Project will welcome its first guests by the end of 2022. The first phase of the development will include 14 luxury hotels offering 3,000 rooms across five islands and two inland locations. It will also include entertainment facilities, an airport, and the necessary supporting logistics and utilities infrastructure. Upon completion in 2030, the destination will deliver up to 8,000 hotel rooms across 22 islands and six inland sites.