Saudi fires up tourism pursuit

The Asia-Pacific market has been identified as a shiny target for Saudi Arabia as it reopens its borders and sets out to fulfil its ambitious Vision 2030 to grow tourist arrivals to 100 million.

Malaysia and India are particularly important, said Alhasan A Aldabbagh, chief markets officer, Asia Pacific with Saudi Tourism Authority (STA).

Alhasan: we see Saudi Arabia complementing rather than competing with other GCC destinations

In an interview with TTG Asia, Alhasan revealed that the Kingdom is targeting 500,000 tourists from Malaysia. It is working closely with trade partners to nurture the nascent Malaysian leisure segment, with its latest move being an MoU with the Malaysia Association of Tour and Travel Agents (MATTA) to provide members with destination training and promotional tools. Saudi Arabia has also committed to being a destination partner for MATTA Fair in March 2023 in Kuala Lumpur.

On October 17, STA pulled off its first roadshow in Kuala Lumpur, introducing more than 100 Malaysian outbound agents to the kingdom’s six UNESCO World Heritage Sites, soft adventures, architecture and marine life.

There are plans for a second roadshow later this year, even more marketing campaigns, as well as engagements with influencers and celebrities as destination advocates.

Over in India, STA intends to charm travellers with Bollywood stars as well as football and cricket icons. It also wants a share of the lucrative Indian destination weddings market.

Elsewhere in the region, STA will open offices in Australia, Singapore and Indonesia next year. Alhasan said the organisation is keen to establish representative offices in Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Pakistan too, but no time frame has been set. STA already has a physical presence in India, China, South Korea, Japan while its commercial office in Malaysia covers the South-east Asian region.

While Alhasan said Saudi Arabia is late to the tourism game, he does not feel that the kingdom is playing with a disadvantage against other tourism-focused Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) destinations.

“Each destination in the GCC has its own unique offering, and a lot of people would like to go to multiple destinations on a single trip. We see Saudi Arabia complementing rather than competing with other GCC destinations. We like to think of ourselves as having the unique positioning that we are the true home of Arabia. We offer a very authentic Arabian culture and have a lot of distinctions. We have over 10,000 archeological sites and we are bringing them out to the world,” he said.

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