Historically conservative and closed, the wind of change is sweeping across 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 transform itself into the next eldorado of tourism. Here, we take a closer look at Saudi Arabia’s monumental scheme and strategies.
The Saudi Vision 2030
Saudi Vision 2030 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, etc.
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 pilgrimages and business-related visits.
As it stands, traveling to Saudi Arabia for pleasure and tourism is as simple as securing your flights and hotels on reputable online booking platforms like Wego.
The Saudi government has poured billions of dollars and invested in tourism mega-projects across the country envisioned by the Crown Prince himself.
Case in point, NOS, 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. As part of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030, the Red Sea Project is a massive luxury and sustainable tourism venture encompassing a vast nature reserve consisting of some 90 pristine islands, dormant volcanoes, heritage sites and reef diving areas. coral. Easily the size of Belgium, the megaproject will welcome guests in late 2022 following the opening of the Red Sea International Airport.
Flanked by the Red Sea Project to the south and NEOM to the north, a luxury tourism development called Amaala Project will transport guests on a journey of transformation through its high-end wellness retreats, luxury resorts, and recreational activities. The luxury wellness complex is right in the center of a stunning 3,800 square kilometer nature reserve named after the Crown Prince.
Redevelopment of historic sites.
For the Al Ula region, efforts have been 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 Nabataeans about 2,000 years ago.
The port city of Yanbu, a few hours from Medina, offers an ancient spice route that reportedly passed through Lawrence of Arabia in the early years of the 20th century. Yanbu is also famous for its oil refineries, industrial plants and its illuminated streets of Souq Al Lail (night market).
In order to provide more exposure, The Saudi Tourism Authority is currently featuring a member of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites, namely the 6,000-year-old Al Ahsa Oasis. Covered with 2.5 million date palms, travelers to Al Ahsa will be greeted by historic mosques, cold and hot springs, as well as sweeping panoramic views of the surrounding desert and beyond.
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.
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 has put forward plans to significantly boost tourism demand 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 nation’s founding, travelers from 49 countries had the opportunity to visit Saudi Arabia for non-religious tourism purposes. After a two-year pause imposed by the pandemic, the visit visa to Saudi Arabia is reissued.
Other fundamental changes have also been introduced to boost tourism. These historical changes can also be considered social reforms as such, 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 requiring female travelers to wear a burqa/veil during their visit. Women can also drive now, which may allow visitors to rent cars on their trips to Saudi Arabia.
However, alcohol is still a sensitive issue and the authorities have not yet announced any changes in this regard. While this is pure conjecture, it is possible that the Saudi government is only making concessions by establishing zones or areas where people will be able to consume alcohol.
In addition, the Saudi tourism authorities have since participated in numerous local and international tourism exhibitions while also managing and marketing tourism destinations, sites, packages, products and itineraries both internally and externally.
As a result, according to the official Saudi Arabian tourism website, more than 3,500 tourism investment licenses have been issued so far.