The Saudi Arabia Tourism Report provides industry professionals and strategists, corporate analysts, tourism associations, government departments and regulatory bodies with independent forecasts and competitive intelligence on Saudi Arabia’s tourism industry.
Saudi Arabia’s tourism industry is unique in that despite the limitations of strict entrance visa regulations, the industry has strong growth potential. BMI forecasts tourist arrivals to the country to grow by 5% year-on-year (y-o-y) to 12.91mn in 2010, after remaining constant in 2009 at just over 12mn. The number of tourist arrivals is forecast to grow by an average of 6.7% y-o-y to the end of our forecast period in 2014. One of the main drivers for the tourism industry is religious tourism. Saudi Arabia is home to two of Islam’s holiest cities, Mecca and Medina, and every year millions of Muslims come to Mecca for the Hajj, the largest annual pilgrimage in the world. In 2009, BMI expected concern about the spread of the H1N1 virus (swine flu) to cause a slight decline in pilgrimage numbers but so far in 2010 the virus has not put much downward pressure on the industry. Business travel is also a growing area, given Saudi Arabia’s status as the world’s largest oil exporter, not to mention its other large industries such as defence. That said, events in Yemen could threaten the stability of Saudi Arabia, as well as the wider region, potentially affecting inbound tourism.
The hospitality sector looks set to grow in tandem with tourist arrivals. BMI forecasts that there will be 319,000 hotel rooms in Saudi Arabia by 2014, up from 218,000 in 2009. In 2009, a number of international chains opened their first hotels in the market, including Rotana, Hyatt Hotels & Resorts, Accor and Raffles Hotels & Resorts. Those already present in the market are expanding, with InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG), Al Hokair Group, Starwood Hotels & Resorts, Rezidor Hotel Group and Wyndham Hotel Group all opening new hotels in 2010.
The Saudi authorities have said they want to diversify away from their dependence on oil, and the tourism industry has been a focal point. Government expenditure has focused on developing the religious tourism and business travel sectors in particular, and for this reason BMI forecasts an increase in collective government expenditure (expenditure that cannot be assigned to a particular group of tourists) and individual government expenditure, which refers to investment in services with an identifiable individual customer, over the forecast period.
Read more inside Saudi Arabia Tourism Report Q1 2011