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Traders at work in the Saudi Investment Bank in Riyadh

Saudi Arabia to Invest over $1 trillion in Tourism in Coming Decade

Saudi Arabia is set to spend over $1 trillion in tourism in the coming decade in a bid to attract 100 million visitors by 2030 and diversify its primarily oil-based economy.

The kingdom is pivoting from religious to leisure tourism, which it views as being a key sector in its Vision 2030 program that aims to modernize the country’s economy, according to a special report recently published by Entrepreneur Middle East in partnership with Lucidity Insights.

Erika Masako Welch is the chief content officer of special reports for Entrepreneur Middle East and helped put together the report. She told The Media Line that Saudi Arabia is hoping to become a global tourism leader.

“Working [women] are entering the workforce at breakneck speed,” Masako Welch said. “Ten or 15 years ago, you had maybe 5% of the Saudi female population in the workforce and now it’s 34%. That’s a lot of jobs that young Saudis are vying for, and those jobs wouldn’t exist unless brand new industries in tech and tourism were being developed.”

Earlier this month, Saudi Arabia announced that it had signed up Argentinian soccer great Lionel Messi to be its new tourism ambassador. After arriving in the kingdom for Jeddah Season, an art and culture festival, Messi uploaded a sponsored Instagram post from a yacht in the Red Sea with the hashtag #VisitSaudi.

Leisure tourism accounted for 55% of all global travel in 2019, according to Masako Welch’s report, which was sponsored by Saudia Airlines. Saudi Arabia has mainly relied on religious visitors – who undertake the Hajj and Umrah pilgrimages – and is presently building up its leisure portfolio from scratch.

“They’re not completely new to welcoming outsiders but they’re new to welcoming everyone,” she said. “Before it was just Muslim pilgrims, which is a big business. That by itself has catapulted Saudia Airlines to make it just as big as British Airways.” (JPost/ VFI News)