Post by: Laboni Chatterjee
Saudi Arabia first opened its doors to international tourists in September 2019. By March 2020, more than 500,000 tourism visas had been issued, making Saudi Arabia the fastest growing destination in the world, according to the WTTC Economic Impact Report. International visitors could explore the country’s five UNESCO heritage sites, as well as pristine beaches, mountain views and bustling cities until international borders closed following the Covid-19 outbreak.
However, as internal travel reopened this summer, The Saudi Tourism Authority (STA) launched the Kingdom’s largest domestic tourism campaign, Saudi Summer, targeting 11 different locations. In the seven weeks since the campaign’s launch on 25 June, overall tourism spending has amounted to around SAR 6 billion (USD 1.6 billion) – an increase of 26 percent over the same period last year. The STA has partnered with 90 tourism businesses, including hotels, tour operators and destination management companies, to develop 100 tourism offers and packages across multiple price points, for families, groups and single travellers as well as ensuring the safest offering for tourists in the wake of COVID-19. The success of the Saudi Summer campaign is helping the Kingdom prepare to receive international visitors once again, as soon as it is viable for them to travel.
Saudi Arabia is home to unique natural offerings, such as Al-Ahsa oasis, the largest oasis in the world. The oasis comprises canals, springs and wells and is an example of human settlement dating back to Neolithic times. Another highlight this year is the opportunity to visit one of Saudi Arabia’s unique natural offerings. The Al-Hijr Archaeological Site, or ‘Hegra’, in AlUla, is the largest preserved Nabatean site south of Jordan and is due to the public in October 2020.
The country also boasts stunning landscapes, such as The Edge of the World (Jebel Fihrayn) – dramatic towering cliffs in the heart of the desert, northwest of Riyadh. Majestic views can be seen from Abha on the edge of the Sarawat Mountains in the Asir region and from Taif, also known as the City of Roses, in reference to the flowers that grow in its surrounding wadis and mountains. The Red Sea Project, based around an archipelago of more than 90 islands, is undergoing sustainable development into a luxury destination, providing opportunities for nature lovers and outdoor adventurers to explore the area’s culture and nature.
Adventure-seekers can find a range of outdoor activities, including hiking the Al Wahbah volcanic crater outside of Taif, quad biking through Riyadh’s red sand dunes, scuba diving in the crystal blue waters of the Red Sea and swimming amongst an ancient shipwreck. Not only is the Kingdom home to ancient civilizations, but it also has a burgeoning contemporary art and food scene. The second-largest city, Jeddah, takes pride in fostering up-and-coming experimental artists. Jeddah is also becoming known for its vibrant dining scene, which includes fresh seafood alongside numerous trendy food trucks.
Saudi Arabia is a country of endless variety, with each region offering a different experience. There is something for all travellers around the world to enjoy, and as soon as people are ready to travel again, Saudi Arabia will be ready to welcome them.