Saudi Arabia reports record-breaking year

SINGAPORE, 12 June 2024: The World Travel & Tourism Council’s (WTTC) 2024 Economic Impact Research (EIR) has revealed a record-breaking year for Travel and tourism in Saudi Arabia, with new records in GDP contribution, sector jobs, and visitor spending.

Saudi Arabia’s Travel & Tourism sector is now soaring past all previous records, a testament to the country’s commitment to becoming a global tourism hot spot.

Last year, the sector grew by more than 32% to contribute a record-breaking SAR444.3 billion to Saudi’s GDP, representing 11.5% of the entire economy. This exceeded the previous record by almost 30% and underscored the sector’s pivotal new role in the nation’s economic framework.

Jobs supported by the sector grew by 436,000 to reach more than 2.5 million, representing almost one in five jobs in the country.

Although the jobs lost during the pandemic were fully recovered in 2022, today’s announcement shows sector employment in Travel & Tourism has increased almost 24% since the previous peak.

International visitor spending surged by almost 57% to reach SAR 227.4BN, breaking the previous record by SAR93.6 billion, while domestic visitor spending grew by 21.5% to reach SAR142.5 billion.

Seven years ahead of its target, Saudi Arabia welcomed 100 million tourists in 2023. Today, the country is surging toward even greater heights and has set a more ambitious aim of attracting 150 million tourists by 2030.

WTTC President & CEO Julia Simpson said: “Saudi Arabia’s Travel & Tourism sector’s extraordinary achievements last year mark a pivotal moment in its journey towards becoming a global tourism leader.

“This success is a direct result of the Kingdom’s visionary commitment to the sector, showcasing an impressive fusion of cultural heritage and innovative tourism initiatives. As the sector continues to expand, it promises to play a crucial role in the nation’s diversified economic future, while contributing significantly to global Travel & Tourism development.”

Minister of Tourism of Saudi Arabia and Chairman of the Executive Council of UN Tourism, His Excellency Ahmed Al-Khateeb said: “The latest data from WTTC provides further evidence of the rapid success we have achieved in transforming Saudi Arabia’s tourism industry.

“Tourism is a key pillar of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 economic diversification plans and we have made great strides promoting investment in the sector – with more than $800 billion earmarked by 2030 – as well as creating new jobs and growing the contribution of tourism to GDP.”

What Does This Year Look Like?

Travel & Tourism is forecast to continue growing in 2024, with GDP contribution set to reach SAR498 billion, while jobs will increase by more than 158,000 to reach nearly 2.7 million.

International visitor spending is projected to reach SAR256 billion, almost double the previous high point and domestic visitor spending is forecast to reach SAR155.2 billion.

What Does the Next Decade Look Like?

The global tourism body forecasts that the sector will grow its annual GDP contribution to a staggering SAR836.1 billion by 2034, almost 16% of the Saudi Arabian economy, and will employ more than 3.6 million people across the country, with one in five people working in the sector.

What Does the Region Look Like?

The Middle Eastern Travel & Tourism sector grew by more than 25% in 2023 to reach almost USD460 billion. Jobs reached nearly 7.75 million and international spending grew by 50% to USD179.8 billion. Domestic visitor spending grew by 16.5% to reach more than USD205 billion.

WTTC is forecasting that the Middle Eastern Travel & Tourism sector will continue to grow throughout 2024, with the GDP contribution set to reach USD507 billion. Jobs are forecast to reach 8.3 million, international visitor spending is forecast to reach USD198 billion and domestic visitor spending is expected to reach more than USD224 billion.

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