RIYADH — Minister of Tourism Ahmed Al-Khateeb described the performance of the Saudi tourism sector during the first quarter of 2023 as unprecedented and historical in terms of the number of tourist visitors and amount of tourism spending. “Over six million pilgrims have performed Umrah during the current season while the percentage of incoming tourists for the purpose of entertainment and holidays shot up 581 percent in the first quarter of 2023 compared to the same period in 2019, thanks to the simplified electronic visa procedures and remarkable growth in facilities and services in the Kingdom’s tourist destinations,” he said.
The minister made the remarks while attending his monthly meeting with investors in the Saudi tourism sector. Saudi Tourism Authority CEO Fahd Hamidaddin and a large number of stakeholders and investors in the tourism sector from various regions of the Kingdom attended the virtual meeting.
Al-Khateeb stressed that the ministry will never neglect three issues that are at the core of its work, which are high quality, everyone’s compliance with issuing the necessary licenses to practice the activity, and Saudiize jobs in the tourism sector.
The minister emphasized that the results achieved by the Kingdom’s tourism sector during the holy month of Ramadan were amazing and unprecedented and that had never been achieved before. The number of Umrah pilgrims from inside and outside Saudi Arabia has exceeded 6 million, and the occupancy rate in the hospitality sector in Makkah and Madinah recorded historical figures.
“This strong start is promising and encouraging as the ministry is intensifying its efforts and readiness to launch the summer season campaign for this year. All sectors have completed their preparations for a strong and attractive tourism season, for which more than SR600 million have been allocated to introduce the wonderful tourist destinations all over the Kingdom,” he said.
The meeting reviewed the preliminary results achieved during the first quarter of this year. It was revealed in the meeting that the growth rate of total domestic tourism spending in the first quarter of this year reached 45 percent compared to the first quarter of 2022. “This was supported by the strong start of inbound tourism and the achievement of the highest quarterly number of foreign tourists for all purposes, as it is estimated at 7.8 million, with a growth rate of 64 percent compared to the first quarter of 2019. The remarkable progress in the procedures, in addition to tourism promotion in the target countries, as as well as the increase in demand for the Umrah visas have contributed to achieving these results,” he said.
Al-Khateeb noted that the rate of tourist visitors from the Gulf countries and the Middle East recorded a growth of 107 percent compared to 2019, while the growth rate of tourists from East Asia, especially Indonesia and Malaysia, reached 49 percent, while the rate of those coming from the European countries, especially Turkey, France, Russia, Italy and Germany, reached 50 percent.
Referring to the turnout of visitors from outside the Kingdom, the minister noted that Makkah topped among the destinations with 4.4 million tourists, and Riyadh came second due to the increase in those coming on tourist visas as well as those coming to visit families and friends. Dammam and Al-Khobar achieved a 96 percent increase in the total number of tourists arrived in the first quarter of this year compared to the same period in 2019, and this was attributed mainly to the increase in the number of visitors and tourists from Bahrain and Qatar , for the purposes of entertainment and visiting families and friends.
There has been significant growth, reaching 247 percent, in the inflow of tourist visitors to Jeddah for the purpose of entertainment and visiting families and friends during the first quarter of 2023 while Al-Ahsa topped the growth rate reaching 419 percent compared to the first quarter of 2019 with the return of tourism movement with Qatar and the increase in the number of tourist visitors from other Gulf countries.
In response to the participants’ enquiries, Al-Khateeb affirmed the ministry’s keenness to accept all opinions and proposals in a way that enhances partnership and joint action in order to advance the tourism sector, which is one of the main sectors supporting the goals of the Saudi Vision 2030.