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Tourism spending in Saudi Arabia rises 23% to $12B

Tourism spending in Saudi Arabia rises 23% to $12B

Tourism spending in Saudi Arabia increased by 23 per cent in the first quarter of 2024, reaching SR45 billion ($12 billion), according to the Saudi Central Bank. The balance of payments for travel, which includes expenditures by foreign tourists and spending by residents abroad, recorded a surplus of SR24 billion, a 46 per cent rise compared to the same period in 2023.

This surge in tourism spending aligns with Saudi Arabia’s goal to become one of the top 10 global tourist destinations by 2024, as part of its Vision 2030 economic diversification strategy. The World Economic Forum’s May study projects that international tourist arrivals and the global travel sector's contribution to GDP will return to pre-pandemic levels this year.

The Middle East leads in recovery rates for international tourist arrivals, with Saudi Arabia improving its ranking from 50th place in 2019 to 41st in 2024, according to the WEF’s Travel & Tourism Development Index 2024.

The recovery is driven by increased travel demand, investments in tourism and cultural attractions and improved flight availability. Saudi Arabia’s expanding ambitions are also highlighted by recent cultural advancements, including art exhibitions, a burgeoning entertainment sector and participation in prestigious events like the Oscars and Cannes Film Festival.

In February, the UN World Tourism Organization recognized Saudi Arabia’s tourism sector for its innovation, achieving the Vision 2030 goal of attracting 100 million visitors seven years ahead of schedule. Following this milestone, Saudi Minister of Tourism Ahmed Al-Khateeb announced at the Future Investment Initiative in Riyadh that the Kingdom has revised its target to 150 million visitors by the end of the decade.

Regulative enhancements, such as the new “Visiting Investor” visa approved by the Ministry of Investment and Foreign Affairs, have also facilitated the expansion of the tourism industry.

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