Saudi Arabia: 2013 tourist numbers to go up 7 percent

JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia – Tourist arrivals in Saudi Arabia is projected to increase by seven percent in 2013, with an additional 38.6 percent increase over the 2013-2017 period, BMI said in Saudi Arabi

Saudi Arabia: 2013 tourist numbers to go up 7 percent

JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia – Tourist arrivals in Saudi Arabia is projected to increase by seven percent in 2013, with an additional 38.6 percent increase over the 2013-2017 period, BMI said in Saudi Arabia Tourism Report Q3 2013.

This implies total arrivals (for whatever purpose) of almost 24 million by the end of our forecast period in 2017.

Higher arrivals will be accompanied by good growth in the hospitality sector. BMI forecast there will be some 178,870 hotel rooms in Saudi Arabia by 2017, with occupancy rates increasing to 63 percent.

Saudi Arabia’s tourist industry performed strongly in 2012.

According to figures from the UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), Saudi tourism receipts reportedly rose by some 14 percent year-on-year last year.

The majority of inbound tourism flows were from other Gulf states.

The Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA) said in May that the number of Gulf Cooperation Council tourists who visited Saudi Arabia in 2012 totaled 4.9 million. This reportedly represented 34 percent of total inbound visitors to the Kingdom, who came on short visits to the country.

One of the main drivers for the tourism industry is religious visits.

“Looking forward, we believe that business travel should prove another strong growth area, especially given Saudi Arabia’s status as the world’s largest oil exporter,” the report added.

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The hospitality sector looks set to grow in tandem with tourist arrivals. BMI forecast that there will be about 178,870 hotel rooms in Saudi Arabia by 2017, with occupancy rates increasing to 63 percent. In recent years, a number of international chains have opened their first hotels in the market, including Hyatt and Best Western.

Saudi Arabia will remain reliant on Middle Eastern and Asian nations for the bulk of its inbound tourism flows for the remainder of the forecast period.

In 2014 there will be an estimated 16.7 million inbound tourist arrivals to Saudi Arabia.

Yet, the real opportunity for the country lies in the growing domestic tourism industry. The government is committed to substantially increase this market to capture some of the capital spent by around 8.2 million Saudi residents that currently travel abroad each year. In 2009, it is estimated that around 32 million domestic tourism trips (199m nights) were taken within the country.

The SCTA forecast that domestic tourism will grow to a staggering 128 million trips and 640 million nights by 2019.

The government has recognized the need to diversify away from its dependence on oil, and the tourism industry has been identified as a priority area for investment.

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