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Saudi tourism leaders honoured by World Travel Awards

Saudi tourism leaders honoured by World Travel Awards

Breaking Travel News is currently running a series of in-depth reports, looking at the winners from the Middle East & Indian Ocean World Travel Awards.

Earlier this month we took a closer look at Qatar, with Saudi Arabia today coming under the spotlight.

Take a look below as we explore some of the regional tourism leaders from this fast-developing destination.

First up, the Saudi Tourism Authority walked away with a trio of awards – Middle East’s Leading Cultural Destination, Middle East’s Leading Heritage Destination and Middle East’s Leading Marketing Campaign.

Football legend and Saudi tourism ambassador Lionel Messi was the star of the award-winning global marketing campaign, ‘Saudi, Welcome to Arabia’.

Launching across key target markets in Europe, India and China, the campaign is “anchored on consumer insights, which revealed there are still common misconceptions about the destination,” and invites audiences to “experience the incredible and vibrant cultural transformation taking place across Saudi”.

Those that know Saudi were encouraged to share positive experiences and memories on TikTok and social channels using the bi-lingual hashtag #ShareYourSaudi.

The campaign ran for three months on multiple platforms, including TV, social media and digital. It is the latest in a series of initiatives by Saudi Tourism to “foster broadening of perspectives, and bridging cultures through tourism”.

Fahd Hamidaddin, chief executive of the Saudi Tourism Authority, said: “We believe the best way to share Saudi with the world is by inviting the world to come see it for themselves and there is no better time than now.”

Football star Lionel Messi and his wife enjoy a visit to Saudi Arabia

Elsewhere, Saudi tourism officials have been working to make it easier to visit the country – with an ambition to welcome 150 million guests annually by the end of the decade.

The destination will now grant visitor visas to travelers from six newly-eligible countries – Türkiye, Thailand, Panama, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Seychelles and Mauritius - for leisure, business and religious (Umrah only) travel.

Nationals of these countries can apply for a Saudi visitor visa ahead of their journey via the official e-visa portal.

Saudi is reimagining the tourism experience, with the famously warm and generous Saudi welcome - known as Hafawah - at the heart of its plans.

The visitor e-visa is valid for an entire year, grants multiple entries, and permits a stay of up to 90 days.

From visiting the seven UNESCO World Heritage Sites, snorkelling and diving in the Red Sea, wandering Taif’s world-famous Rose Gardens, shopping like a local in Riyadh’s Deira Souq, chartering the unknown on land in the lush, green Asir region and tasting Saudi’s diverse and delicious culinary scene from fragrant Arabic dishes to internationally renowned fine dining restaurants, there is something for everyone in Saudi.

Since the launch of Saudi’s visitor e-visa in 2019, Saudi has eased access for millions and accelerated tourism growth on an unmatched scale.

The strength of the ever-increasing demand to visit Saudi Arabia has been led by a range of visa initiatives.

On September 27th, 2019, the Ministry of Tourism launched the visitor visa program, targeting 49 countries, which has now increased to 63 after the addition of further six countries and special administrative regions.

In 2022, Saudi extended its regulations to provide a visitor e-visa to holders of valid Schengen, United Kingdom, and United States of America visas that have been used to enter those countries before arriving in Saudi Arabia, and to permanent residents of EU and GCC countries, as well as the United Kingdom and the United States of America.

Last year, Saudi announced the launch of the free 96-hour Stopover Visa, allowing passengers to stay in the country.

Travellers can use the Stopover Visa to explore Saudi and perform Umrah.

His Excellency Ahmed Al-Khateeb, Saudi Arabia Minister of Tourism, said: “The tourism ecosystem continues to operate in line with the national tourism strategy by developing diverse tourist destinations.

“Our aim is to enrich the experiences of tourists, diversify options for both local and international visitors, and enhance hospitality facilities along with other services provided.

“We are committed to aligning with top-tier international experiences and practices.

“This approach contributes to shaping a prosperous future for our tourism industry, improving the quality of life, and bolstering our position on the global tourism map.”

His Excellency Ahmed Al-Khateeb, Saudi Arabia Minister of Tourism, has led the transformation of the sector

Elsewhere, in a landmark announcement made at the 173rd General Assembly of the Bureau International des Expositions, Saudi Arabian capital city Riyadh has been named as the host city for the highly anticipated Expo 2030.

Themed ‘The Era of Change: Together for a Foresighted Tomorrow,’ Expo 2030 will align perfectly with the fulfilment of Saudi’s Vision 2030 – a historic blueprint to fundamentally transform the Kingdom, diversify the economy, and improve the lives of the country’s citizens.

Saudi is one of the fastest-growing tourist destinations, and in the first quarter of 2023, it had the second-highest number of international arrivals in the world - a growth of 64 per cent compared to the same period in 2019.

Expo 2030 is expected to turbocharge the sector’s steep upward trajectory, giving the kingdom a platform to share its unique and diverse wonders with the world while driving forward job creation, sector investment, and trade partnerships.

Hamidaddin stated: “This marks an extraordinary chapter for Saudi, with our capital city, Riyadh, honoured by the world as the chosen host of Expo 2030.

“I believe that Expo 2030 will serve as a catalyst for growth and its impact on Saudi’s tourism sector will be felt immediately.

“As we prepare for this iconic global showpiece, we would like to call on our trade partners to take advantage of the historic opportunities on offer, to help us drive forward sustainable growth and development within the Kingdom’s tourism sector today.”

Spotlighting Saudi’s robust tourism infrastructure expansion, Hamidaddin added: “Today, Saudi has over 400,000 hotel rooms which will be expanded to 854,000 new rooms by 2030.

“Additionally, the planned development of the King Salman International Airport in Riyadh will help position the city as a world-class hub for travel and commerce, targeting an ambitious capacity of 120 million passengers within the next seven years.

“These developments will enhance accessibility into Riyadh and the rest of the country, ensuring a simple and seamless travel experience for all Expo attendees.”

According to internal projections, Expo 2030 is projected to welcome close to 40 million site visits and over one billion pavilion digital visits to the historic metaverse pavilion.

Moreover, Expo 2030 will span over six million square meters and will feature 246 unique event participants.

Other winners at the World Travel Awards included the Royal Commission for AlUla, which took trophies for Middle East’s Leading Cultural Tourism Project, Middle East’s Leading Festival & Event Destination and Saudi Arabia’s Leading Cultural Tourism Project.

AlUla stands with two other great oases in northwest Arabia - Khaybar and Tayma - to create a place of profound history that is continuously evolving.

Its strategic position has, throughout millennia, made it a crucial hub for trade, and its distinct geographical features, such as the famed oasis and imposing sandstone mountains, combined with its favourable climate, allowed numerous civilisations to thrive.

Those who visit now embark on an authentic journey, travelling back in time, surrounded by wonders and a sense of discovery.

Guests looking to stay can visit the Banyan Tree AlUla, which took the trophy for Middle East’s Leading Luxury Desert Resort.

For those looking for somewhere different to stay, the St. Regis Riyadh was recognised with the trophy for Middle East’s Leading Luxury City Resort.

Cast from ancient Tuwaiq mountain stone, the hotel masterfully embodies the capital’s unique identity, through an entirely modern aesthetic.

As the debut St. Regis in Saudi Arabia, the hotel introduces the brand’s exceptional service and signature rituals to a new legacy of guests.

Supremely positioned close to the diplomatic quarter the St. Regis Riyadh is the only hotel within the rarefied vicinity of VIA Riyadh, where a curated selection of international designers, restaurants and cinema assemble.

Also in the accommodation sector, Boutique Group took trophies for Middle East’s Leading Heritage Tourism Development Project and Saudi Arabia’s Leading Hospitality Company, while Shaza Hotels took Middle East’s Leading Luxury Halal Hotel Brand.

In aviation, flynas was honoured with the trophy for Middle East’s Leading Low-Cost Airline.

During 2023, the carrier launched 39 new routes to 18 destinations in ten new countries and inaugurated its fourth operations base at Prince Mohammed bin Abdulaziz International Airport in Madinah.

flynas operates more than 1,500 weekly flights to more than 70 domestic and international destinations.

Finally, Al Nakhla Residential Resort took prizes for Middle East’s Leading Residential Resort and Saudi Arabia’s Leading Residential Resort, walked away with Middle East’s Leading Umrah Online Travel Agency and Lumi was honoured with Middle East’s Leading Car Rental Company

Complete Saudi Arabia World Travel Awards winners:

  • Saudi Arabia’s Leading Airport Hotel - Riyadh Airport Marriott Hotel
  • Saudi Arabia’s Leading Beach Resort - Dana Beach Resort
  • Saudi Arabia’s Leading Boutique Hotel - Al Mashreq Boutique Hotel
  • Saudi Arabia’s Leading Business & Conference Hotel - Mandarin Oriental Al Faisaliah
  • Saudi Arabia’s Leading Business & Leisure Hotel - Bay La Sun Hotel & Marina
  • Saudi Arabia’s Leading Business Car Rental Company - Lumi
  • Saudi Arabia’s Leading Business Hotel - Radisson Hotel & Apartments Dammam Industrial City
  • Saudi Arabia’s Leading Car Rental Company - Lumi
  • Saudi Arabia’s Leading Chauffeur Company - Samara
  • Saudi Arabia’s Leading City Hotel - InterContinental Riyadh
  • Saudi Arabia’s Leading Conference & Wedding Hotel - Four Seasons Hotel Riyadh
  • Saudi Arabia’s Leading Conference Hotel - The Ritz-Carlton, Riyadh
  • Saudi Arabia’s Leading Corporate Travel Company - Almosafer Business
  • Saudi Arabia’s Leading Cultural Tourism Project - AlUla
  • Saudi Arabia’s Leading Destination Management Company - Discover Saudi
  • Saudi Arabia’s Leading Family & Leisure Destination Hotel - Bay La Sun Hotel & Marina
  • Saudi Arabia’s Leading Heritage Tourism Development Project - Diriyah
  • Saudi Arabia’s Leading Hospitality Company - Boutique Group
  • Saudi Arabia’s Leading Hospitality Development Company - Dur Hospitality Company
  • Saudi Arabia’s Leading Hotel - Riyadh Marriott Hotel
  • Saudi Arabia’s Leading Hotel & Residences - Grand Hyatt Al Khobar Hotel and Residences
  • Saudi Arabia’s Leading Hotel Group - Emaar Al Diyafa Hotels
  • Saudi Arabia’s Leading Hotel Residences - Shaza Riyadh
  • Saudi Arabia’s Leading Hotel Suite - Royal Suite @ Mandarin Oriental Al Faisaliah
  • Saudi Arabia’s Leading Leisure Travel Agency - Almosafer
  • Saudi Arabia’s Leading Luxury Hotel - Shaza Makkah
  • Saudi Arabia’s Leading Luxury Hotel Villa - Castillo @ Vivienda Jeddah
  • Saudi Arabia’s Leading Luxury Resort - Nofa Riyadh, A Radisson Collection Resort
  • Saudi Arabia’s Leading New Hotel - Jumeirah Jabal Omar Makkah
  • Saudi Arabia’s Leading New Residential Resort - AlSharq Village
  • Saudi Arabia’s Leading Online Travel Agency - Almosafer
  • Saudi Arabia’s Leading Private Jet Charter - Sky Prime Aviation Services
  • Saudi Arabia’s Leading Residential Resort - Al Nakhla Residential Resort
  • Saudi Arabia’s Leading Resort - Park Hyatt Jeddah - Marina, Club and Spa
  • Saudi Arabia’s Leading Serviced Apartment Brand - The Ascott Limited
  • Saudi Arabia’s Leading Serviced Apartments - Ascott Rafal Olaya Riyadh
  • Saudi Arabia’s Leading Shopping Mall Hotel - Hilton Riyadh Hotel & Residences
  • Saudi Arabia’s Leading Tour Operator - Al Fahhad Travel and Tourism
  • Saudi Arabia’s Leading Travel Agency - dnata Travel
  • Saudi Arabia’s Leading Travel Management Company - Almosafer Business
  • Saudi Arabia’s Leading Visa Services Agency - Direct for Travel & Tourism
  • Saudi Arabia’s Leading Wedding Hotel - The Ritz-Carlton, Jeddah

More Information

World Travel Awards was established in 1993 to acknowledge, reward and celebrate excellence across all key sectors of the travel, tourism and hospitality industries. Today, the World Travel Awards brand is recognised globally as the ultimate hallmark of industry excellence.

Each year World Travel Awards covers the globe with its Grand Tour – a series of regional gala ceremonies to recognise excellence within each continent, culminating with the winners going head-to-head in a Grand Final at the end of the year.

Find out more on the official website.