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ATM 2019: Religious tourism drives growth in Saudi market
The Red Sea Development is expected to drive luxury tourism in Saudi Arabia in the coming decade

ATM 2019: Religious tourism drives growth in Saudi market

Saudi Arabia’s travel and tourism sector is expected to contribute $71 billion to the country’s GDP in 2019, according to data from the World Travel & Tourism Council.

The news comes as exhibitors prepare to showcase what the kingdom has to offer at this year’s Arabian Travel Market. 

According to data from ATM’s research partner, Colliers, international arrivals to Saudi Arabia are expected to increase 5.6 per cent per year from 17.7 million in 2018 to 23.3 million in 2023.

Religious tourism is expected to remain the bedrock of the sector over the next decade, with a goal of attracting 30 million pilgrims to the Kingdom by 2030, an increase of 11 million from the 19 million Hajj and Umrah pilgrims that visited the country in 2017.

Danielle Curtis, exhibition director, Middle East, Arabian Travel Market, said: “At ATM, we are witnessing this growth first hand with the total number of delegates arriving from Saudi Arabia increasing 42 per cent between 2017 and 2018, while 33 per cent of delegates, exhibitors and attendees were interested in doing business with the Kingdom.


“More relaxed access to visas, through online portals such as the Sharek and the growth of the Umrah plus market – combining religious and leisure travel – are expected to be key drivers in the growth of international tourism in the Kingdom.”

Vision 2030 has set aside $64 billion to invest in culture, leisure and entertainment projects over the next decade, which will significantly add to the attractiveness of the country as a touristic destination, according to a recent report from real estate firm Savills.

The first phase of the Red Sea project, which is estimated to grow the kingdom’s GDP by US$5.86 billion and will consist of an airport, marinas, up to 3,000 hotel rooms and various recreational activities, is expected to complete during 2022.

Additionally, last year Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund announced the development of Amaala, a new ultra-luxury tourism megaproject which is earmarked for completion in 2028.

The development will add 2,500 hotel rooms – further boosting the accommodation offering for both domestic and international visitors alike. 

“Saudi Arabia will see a vast expansion of its hotel and resort inventory during 2019, with over 9,000 keys of three, four and five-star international supply expected to enter the market despite major cities such as Riyadh and Jeddah experiencing an overall drop in ADR during 2018.

“While, this new supply will place additional competitive pressure on hotels performance across the country, the projected growth in visitor numbers in both the domestic and international markets is expected to boost occupancy levels throughout 2019,” added Curtis.

Arabian Travel Market will be held at the Dubai World Trade Centre from April 28th-May 1st.