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Saudi Arabia Reopens for International Tourism

Saudi tourism

The Saudi National Centre for Disease Control and Prevention on Monday (17 May) has reopened its borders more than a year after closing down travel due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

All those traveling to Saudi Arabia, both nationals and foreigners, who are fully vaccinated will be able to enter with no quarantine.

Both residents and nationals must ensure their vaccine status is updated in the government’s Tawakkalna application. All other travelers traveling to Saudi Arabia must show proof of two doses of vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech, Oxford-AstraZeneca or Moderna, or one from Johnson & Johnson.

People traveling to the kingdom after only one shot or just a negative PCR test must complete seven days of quarantine at their own expense.

Fahd Hamidaddin, CEO, Saudi Tourism Authority, Majed Alnefaie, Acting CEO of Seera, Captain Ibrahim Koshy, CEO, Saudi Arabian Airlines (SAUDIA), and Dr Afnan Al Shuaiby, Founder and CEO of FNN International and Chair of the Arab International Women’s Forum took the stage at the ATM 2021 Saudi Arabia Tourism Summit on the Global Stage. 

The audience heard how Saudi Arabia is preparing to reopen its borders for foreign tourists imminently, and it is well on its way to realising its ambition for attracting 100 million tourists per year by 2030.

atm saudi summit 21

Fahd Hamidaddin, CEO of Saudi Tourism Authority, discussed the Kingdom’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, having just opened up to international tourism in September 2019: “While the travel and tourism sector was paralysed globally, Saudi Arabia kept moving. Although the priority was to save lives, we were also committed to protecting livelihoods and saving jobs through our successful domestic tourism campaign, which resulted in a 33% increase in spending, hotel occupancy was at 50%, and the number of Destination Marketing Companies (DMCs) within the Kingdom increased from 17 to 93.”

The domestic market strength was underscored in 2020 and Q1 2021, with SAUDIA operating its 28 domestic airports at close to 80% of its 2019 levels, and demand exceeding capacity at times. The numbers are expected to pick up even further with the recent resumption of international travel for residents and citizens and the operation of the new King Abdulaziz International Airport (KAIA) as a true regional hub.

Discussing the outlook for SAUDIA, CEO Captain Ibrahim Koshy said: “There are many things taking place in Saudi Arabia that will accelerate a return to profit for the airline. We will come out much leaner and stronger as a business, with expected profitability in 2024, if not earlier, as the potential market for the Kingdom continues to grow at a fast pace. We may also see aircraft orders this year to meet that expected demand in capacity.”

The second session of the ATM Saudi Arabia Tourism Summit on the ATM Global Stage explored the “giga-project effect”, from developments that preserve and promote the Kingdom’s heritage, culture and natural assets to theme parks, futuristic cities in the desert and luxury resorts with a strong focus on sustainability.

“This was a great opportunity for panellists to reveal how the country is setting new global industry benchmarks and for the travel trade industry to meet the business leaders playing a pivotal role in delivering Vision 2030 by spearheading ambitious projects that will set Saudi Arabia apart as a destination like no other,” said Danielle Curtis, Exhibition Director ME, Arabian Travel Market.

The ATM 2021 Saudi Arabia Tourism Summit continues next week (Monday 24 May) during ATM Virtual. With the long-term tourism outlook in Saudi Arabia more bullish than ever, hotel industry heavyweights will discuss the vast potential for new and innovative hospitality concepts that keep pace with this demand and fast-changing guest demographics, now and in the future.

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