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Saudi Arabia receives 7.8 million tourists in Q1 2023

Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Tourism said that the country received 7.8 million tourists during the first quarter of 2023.

That figure, it says, represents its highest quarterly performance, and was achieved on the back of a 64 per cent growth compared to the same period in 2019.

It added that the kingdom achieved second place globally in the growth rate of international tourists, as per the World Tourism Organization’s data issued in May of 2023, according to the report in Saudi Press Agency.

The record number of visitors in the first three months of this year also led to increased tourism revenue. The kingdom’s incoming tourism revenue grew by about 225 per cent, compared to the first quarter of 2022, to reach about SAR37bn, as per the Saudi Central Bank (SAMA) data.

The ministry added that Saudi Arabia achieved a large surplus in the balance of payments for the tourism sector in Q1 2023, amounting to SAR22.8bn. This figure is compared to a deficit of SAR1.6 billion recorded in the first quarter of 2022.

It attributed the growth to the “culmination of the ministry’s efforts to boost the tourism sector and its contribution to the growth of the national economy, which corresponds to the objectives of the National Tourism Development Strategy”.

With a 121 per cent increase from pre-pandemic international tourism levels, Saudi achieved 93.5 million visits in 2022. It now aims to reach 100 million visits annually by 2030.

Supporting tourism in Saudi Arabia

Major hospitality and aviation entities are doubling down on efforts to support that vision for the coutry.

Apart from a brand-new airline by way of Riyadh Air announced earlier this year, set to commence operations in 2025, a master plan has also already been revealed for a new six-runway King Salman International Airport which will be built in Riyadh to accommodate up to 120 million travellers by 2030.

Hilton meanwhile has said that it aims to quadruple its presence in Saudi Arabia. It currently operates 16 hotels in the kingdom, and has a development pipeline of more than 50 properties with the goal of building a portfolio of 75 trading properties across the country.

To facilitate the growth in visitors, in June this year, Saudi Arabia said that six additional categories of people would now be eligible for the instant e-visa. UK, US, and Schengen visa holders, as well as permanent residents of UK, US, and any EU country can obtain tourist e-visas. It had previously extended regulation to provide visas on arrival to holders of valid US, UK, and Schengen visas as well as permanent residents of UK, US, and any EU country. The e-visa eligibility was extended to residents of the GCC too.