Skift Take

Saudi Arabia’s tourism sector is moving from vision to reality. Skift is exploring this journey in a new limited-series podcast, The Skift Travel Spotlight: The Future of Tourism in Saudi Arabia.

This sponsored content was created in collaboration with a Skift partner.

Saudi Arabia has set an ambitious goal to welcome 150 million visitors by 2030, unleashing a flurry of growth and investment in the Kingdom. Part of the Kingdom’s broad economic transformation strategy aimed at diversifying its economy, hundreds of billions of dollars are being invested into “giga-projects” across deserts, mountains, and waterfronts, all of which are expected to be operational by 2030. 

This strategic investment in tourism is incredibly ambitious and its scale is unprecedented among destinations. 

To explore the vision, progression, innovations, and opportunities shaping travel in the Kingdom, Skift partnered with the Saudi Arabian Tourism Authority on a new podcast, Skift Travel Spotlight: The Future of Tourism in Saudi Arabia. Featuring short, insightful conversations with leaders and experts responsible for developing the nation’s tourism infrastructure, the podcast provides insider views and insights on what’s next for Saudi Arabia’s dynamic tourism sector. 

Listeners can expect conversations on: 

  • Saudi Arabia’s massive tourism investments and approach to global partnerships
  • An insider view on progress and potential of giga-projects, such as NEOM
  • Aviation’s role in building the Kingdom’s tourism infrastructure
  • How Saudi Arabia is marketing to key source markets

SkiftX spoke with Hazim Al-Hazmi, Hazim Al-Hazmi, president, Europe & Americas, of Saudi Tourism Authority, to discuss the podcast and get a preview of some of the themes the series will cover. 

SkiftX: Why are you partnering with Skift on this podcast series recorded at and around World Travel Market?

Al-Hazmi: We are always looking for new, innovative, and better ways to reach our key audiences, and podcasting is an informative, untapped resource. It will help us tell the story of Saudi Arabia’s transformation through the voices of our partners and the people working on the ground to drive change — it is a more personal and insightful approach. 

SkiftX: What are the most impactful initiatives contributing to the development of Saudi Arabia’s tourism industry? 

Al-Hazmi: There is so much taking place within the destination that it is hard to single out just a few initiatives.

Indeed, the growth in our connectivity has assisted in making it easier for visitors to reach us — Saudi is currently connected to 128 destinations, with new routes launching all the time and a commitment from Riyadh Air to provide connectivity to 100 destinations worldwide by 2030.

I am sure you are familiar with some of the giga-projects taking place within Saudi. We are seeing tremendous progress with these, with hotels in the Red Sea already welcoming visitors. 

There is also a thriving events and cultural calendar in Saudi, which visitors are discovering. In the winter season, there are over 17,000 events ranging from light installations to F1 in Jeddah. There is a wide variety for sports fans, families, music lovers, and everyone in between.

And because we know more about our customers and what they want from a destination than ever before, we can use those insights to shape our product and what we need to say to help raise awareness of Saudi Arabia as a destination to visit.

SkiftX: What is the opportunity for global travel industry players in Saudi Arabia? 

Al-Hazmi: Saudi Arabia is transforming like no other — it is the biggest and most exciting opportunity in tourism today. Our leadership is committed to ensuring that the investment is in place to help it grow.

We know that the travel trade will be a crucial partner in helping us tell the stories of Arabia and providing information and reassurance to visitors as they plan their trips.

This is why STA places such a focus on building long-term strategic partnerships at both global and local levels: It ensures that we work with and listen to the needs of our trade partners and support them with the right tools and opportunities.

SkiftX: How is Saudi Arabia embedding sustainability into the development of its tourism ecosystem? 

Al-Hazmi: One of the great things about being a new and disruptive destination is that we get to start from a blank canvas. It gives us the opportunity to learn from those who have gone before us and to improve where we can.

Sustainability is central to the leadership’s vision for tourism and is reflected in many of the ongoing projects. For example, Saudi Arabia’s national endangered species rehabilitation and biodiversity protection program is rewilding 20 species, from Arabian Oryx and Antelopes to Arabian Leopards, Sand Gazelles, and Ibex. Additionally, Red Sea Global aims to support the population growth of sea turtles by equipping them with the best techniques and strategies to improve turtle hatching success rates across the Red Sea’s islands. Meanwhile, the AlUla Framework is a world-leading example of community-led rural development, and the creation of NEOM is being powered by renewable energy.

SkiftX: You look after the European and American markets for Saudi Travel Authority. What do you hope Saudi Arabia evokes among the travel industry and consumers in those regions 10 years from now?

Al-Hazmi: Europe and the Americas are very important markets for us, not just because of their size, but because of their ability to set trends globally. I spend a lot of time traveling the regions, meeting our partners, and understanding their challenges and how we can help them overcome them.

We invest a lot of our time and effort into understanding our targeted segments. We want to know what their functional and emotional needs are and how they behave throughout their journey and across all value chain touchpoints so we can meet their needs, serve them better, and exceed their expectations.

We are focusing our efforts on ensuring that we have the right product for those customers and that we address any concerns or misconceptions they may have about Saudi Arabia.

You may have seen our recent global campaign, which features our tourism ambassador, Lionel Messi: ‘Go Beyond What You Think’.

But let’s remember, this is only the beginning of our journey in empowering tourism to bridge cultures and promote a more interconnected and harmonious world. In 10 years from now, I hope we have even stronger relationships with local trade partners and consumers who are not just booking their trip to Saudi Arabia, but are advocating for us with their friends and family.

The series is available to listen now by using the link above or via all major podcasting platforms, including Apple Podcasts and Spotify.

Learn more about visiting and investing in Saudi Arabia.

This content was created collaboratively by Saudi Tourism Authority and Skift’s branded content studio, SkiftX.

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Tags: global tourism, Saudia Arabia, skift podcast

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