The fragmentation of the tours and activities sector is an issue for destinations across the globe. But as Saudi Arabia pushes to reinvent its tourism offering, it sees digital booking and distribution as essential to growing its tourism numbers.
Saudi Arabia’s ambitious target to attract 100 million tourists a year, as part of its Vision 2030 to revive tourism, now has a new activities platform as part of its growth engine.
Almosafer Activities, set to launch in the third quarter of 2023, puts into effect an agreement between the Saudi Arabian travel company Almosafer, part of the Seera group, and Asian tours and activities marketplace, Klook.
The two travel companies signed the agreement in early 2022 to make local tours and activities more accessible and easier to book. Almosafer Activities expects to launch with 120 products under the categories of Attractions, Tours, Activities & Experiences, and Events across four regions, including Riyadh, Eastern Region, Makkah, and Madinah.
Almosafer hopes to use Klook’s market share as a travel and experiences platform in Asia and global distributor of experiences, much the same way GetYourGuide and Expedia, and TripAdvisor’s Viator and Bookings.com, have done in the U.S. and European markets.
The thinking behind the deal: Small- and medium-sized merchants in Saudi Arabia could benefit from exposure to local, regional, and international audiences. Distributors of Almosafer Activities – Klook being the first one – will have access to activities and experiences in Saudi Arabia.
The platform will further expose merchants to other companies under the Seera group’s travel umbrella, according to Muzzammil Ahussain, Almosafer CEO, who sees Klook as a key Asian market partner.
What Merchants and Tour Operators Can Expect
Klook’s partnership in Almosafer Activities brings the “technical strength” to connect the experiences sector and drive the digital transformation for tours and activities in the region, according to CS Soong, Klook vice president for corporate development.
He shared with Skift that with “numerous merchants in the pipeline,” the platform has the ambitious target of onboarding “over 90 percent of the market available offerings within the next 12 months.”
“Our goal is to help merchants and tour operators of all sizes digitize and streamline their business operations to be digital and future-ready,” said Soong.
This includes “convenient payment cycles and seamless online payments” as well as a dedicated merchants app for providers to manage their products. Added digital solutions the platform will offer, according to Soong, includes tools to manage inventory, ticketing, distribution to a global audience via Klook. It will also support local languages and multiple payment methods.
“For payment cycles, merchants can select flexible payment pay out terms such as 14 or 30 days. On the consumer side, consumers will be able to use over 40+ payment options available on Klook across 41 currencies including local payment wallets, integration with local banking systems such as Pay Now and even Buy Now Pay Later.”
“We will be working closely with the supply ecosystem, which includes the Saudi Tourism Authority, Giga Projects and merchants, added Ahussain. “We will be able to leverage our consumer segment, which is Saudi Arabia’s largest consumer travel brand with over 1 million customers, as well as Discover Saudi, the leading destination management company in Saudi Arabia with agent partnerships around the world and in key source markets including Europe, GCC, and the Americas.”
With religious tourism as a niche in the region, he added that Almosafer would continue to work with Mawasim, its Hajj and Umrah tour operator, which offers Umrah+ packages, enabling pilgrims to combine religious and leisure travel.
“We have plans to expand our offerings to over 200 products by the end of the year, enabling people to experience all the incredible things Saudi Arabia has to offer, from diving, hiking and concerts. Activities will be available as stand alone offerings through consumer channels or packages as holistic itineraries for our business to business partners,” said Ahussain.
Servicing Ongoing Demand for Domestic Travel Growth
“Through this cutting-edge digital platform, Almosafer Activities will offer seamless and hassle-free access to a wide range of activities and unique experiences, catering to every type of traveler,” Fahd Hamidaddin, CEO and Member of the Board at Saudi Tourism Authority, said in response to the launch.
This as Saudi continues to see ongoing demand from locals, despite a full resumption of international travel. Domestic bookings accounted for 56 percent of total bookings in 2022, up from 47 percent for the same period pre-pandemic in 2019, according to Almosafer’s Insights & Trends of the Saudi Traveler.
All-time favorite destinations for local travelers are Riyadh, Jeddah, Dammam, Makkah and Abha, while trending destinations for trips include AlUla, Taif and Najran.
Almosafer’s report also shows that overall, Saudi travelers are spending more on longer trips. The average trip length has increased by 13 percent to 9.1 days, up from 8 days in 2019, whereas the average order value has increased by 15 percent since pre-pandemic.
The data shows that this shift is even more amplified in domestic trips, added Ahussain. “While domestic travel used to be driven by shorter trips for purposes such as visiting family, friends or for special occasions, Saudis are now considering their own country as a destination to explore, as they spend more money on longer leisure trips in the Kingdom, which is a great sign for activities to become a key part of their bookings.”
And with Saudi’s significant visitor and investment targets, a reliable marketplace for attractions and experiences, which benefits both local operators for easy distribution and visitors for easy booking, is a significant step towards global visitor growth.
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Photo credit: Madinah, Saudi Arabia. Source: Unsplash Haidan / Unsplash