Saudi Arabia picks up tourism after lockdown restrictions were eased

Saudi Arabia has experienced a rapid boom after easing restrictions on domestic tourism and is preparing for a rapid recovery in international tourism from early 2021.

The government of Saudi Arabia plans to open to international tourists from January 2021, where the kingdom with its group of the 20 largest economies plans to allow global travel to resume.

“If the countries open their borders today we will be able to run fast and that is the plan,” said Al-Khateeb, a key adviser to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. “We believe that people want to travel and will continue to travel, but we need countries to coordinate their actions.”

With the pandemic, Saudi Arabia had closed its borders since March, stalling the government’s plan to expand its travel industry for six months. The government had allowed foreign tourists in, but visitors collapsed and the boom in domestic tourism offset the projected decline in tourism.

With tourism being one of the main components of the Kingdom’s plan to diversify the oil-dependent economy, the pandemic halted the plan and resulted in job losses, with the World Travel and Tourism Council forecasting 100 million job losses.

Mr Al-Khateeb said the official tourism destinations for the coming year will remain unchanged and the government continues to plan to expand the sector to 10% of economic output by 2030.

“We built the ecosystem, we prepared the international campaigns, we developed the visitor experience and we are ready to capture the numbers that we promised,” said Al-Khateeb

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia had issued around 500,000 visas before closing its borders and consisted mostly of Islamic religious pilgrimages. However, the borders were closed due to the pandemic and tourism fell sharply. As the increase in domestic travel, 50% greater than predicted, helped balance businesses and jobs. Hotel occupancy at the 10 locations the government selected to promote summer tourism locations rose to 80% in the summer, compared to just 5% at the start of the pandemic, he added.

Last month, the kingdom launched its first cruise, which was halted after a suspected coronavirus case. However, the cruise will now resume.

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia plans to welcome international tourists from 2021 who will follow the health and safety standards.

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