ORLANDO, Florida — A Saudi delegation made its inaugural appearance at the Phocuswright Conference, a premier travel and technology forum in Florida. The delegation showcased Saudi Arabia’s diverse tourism offerings and explore collaborative opportunities with US partners.
The conference, themed ‘You, Me & The Machine,’ held from November 13 to 16, delved into the transformative impact of AI capabilities on the travel industry.
Fahd Hamidaddin, CEO and Board Member of the Saudi Tourism Authority, participated in a panel discussion as part of the ‘Bridge Series’ titled ‘Innovating Travel & Tourism for the Future.’ The discussion provided a platform to spotlight Saudi Arabia’s tourism transformation, the innovative culture driving the Saudi Vision 2030, and initiatives to enhance the skills of the tourism workforce for an elevated visitor experience.
The Saudi delegation engaged with over 1,200 attendees from 500-plus companies, including industry giants such as Tripadvisor, Expedia, Hopper, and Skyscanner. The meetings aimed to foster new business opportunities and unlock shared value in the US market.
The Saudi pavilion, designed as an experiential Saudi Café, offered visitors an educational journey featuring diverse Saudi locations and authentic Arabian tastes. Traditional Saudi bites and beverages, including Saudi coffee and rose and pomegranate juice, added a cultural touch.
NEOM, the $500 billion megaproject, was also showcased in the Saudi area, providing updates on Sindalah, the luxurious yachting destination set to open in 2024.
Fahd Hamidaddin highlighted the nation’s commitment to US market growth, stating, “The US is a key market for Saudi – we are taking steps to really understand the needs and wants of our US trade partners and consumers.” He emphasized the significance of Saudi Arabia’s presence at the Phocuswright Conference as a vote of confidence in fostering new business growth with US partners.
Saudi Arabia continues to expand travel options and enhance competitiveness, with the eVisa program now covering 63 countries and special administrative regions, up from the initial 49 at its launch in 2019.
Connectivity between the US and Saudi Arabia has strengthened, with Saudia offering 17 direct connections per week from Los Angeles, New York, and Washington to Jeddah and Riyadh. In 2023, over 255,000 inbound seats are expected, and direct capacity will grow by 7% in the first quarter of 2024.
Saudia’s North American footprint will further expand with the launch of direct services to Canada in December, injecting 894 inbound seats per week on the Jeddah-Toronto route.
As Saudi Arabia enters its winter season, a vibrant cultural and sporting events calendar awaits, featuring MDL Beast, the Red Sea Film Festival, Riyadh Season 2023, AlUla’s Winter at Tantora festival, and the much-anticipated Dakar Rally in the New Year. — SG