One in ten jobs globally is supported by tourism today. It is no surprise then the tremendous growth in the tourism sector across emerging markets over the last few decades. Most significantly the contribution it makes to foreign exchange reserves, as well as the direct, and indirect, impact on employment across airlines, travel agencies, hotels, food and beverage sectors to name just a few.
The expansion of the middle class coupled with the response to the pressures of the last few years of the pandemic and increased travel restrictions, has also seen a rise in domestic tourism mainly driven by affordability, proximity and a rapid explosion guest facilities geared solely for internal markets. Together with other indicators, these have all kept the global pipeline in hotels buoyant with very little cancellations to projects, while emerging markets witnessed mostly delays driven by supply chain pressures.
For many countries however, investment in tourism is key to their economic diversification plan particularly in those countries solely or heavily dependent on one sector or resource. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is just the case in point where tourism development is seen as an important driver of growth for its future. It is also one of the key pillars at the heart of Vision 2030’s plan to diversify the economy and reduce reliance on oil.
The country has been actively promoting domestic and international tourists through hosting worldwide business and cultural events and is currently on track to reach its goal of 100 million visitors annually by 2030. It is also fast becoming one of the world’s most attractive destinations for hotel and tourism companies looking to expand.
To put this into perspective the country recorded a total of 20 million international tourists in 2019, ranking 13th in the world in absolute terms generating around 5.96 billion US dollars in the tourism sector alone which is just below 1 percent (0.85%) of its GDP and accounts for approximately 8% of all international tourism receipts in Western Asia. In the same year, Saudi Arabia generated around 5.96 billion US Dollar in the tourism sector alone according to the latest WorldData website
In order to grow the sector in line with international best practices, the country has set up three main bodies – The Ministry of Tourism, the Saudi Tourism Authority and the Tourism Development Fund.
Together they are focused on achieving the Vision 2030 and enabling both domestic and international private sector investments in the Kingdom. In a recent interview for Destination Tomorrow, Mahmoud Abdulhadi Deputy Minister for Investment Attraction at the Ministry of Tourism stressed that the focus is on more than just the big cities in the Kingdom and that they are actively promoting rural areas, sun and sea, and mountain destinations, that may not be immediately obvious to general investors.
“Saudi is by no means a new market for hospitality,” said Fuad Sajdi, CEO of Toggle Market, “It has a mature infrastructure with well-established developers and operators present. What is different is the level of expansion and experimentation taking place today across the entire country in order to build a sustainable tourism ecosystem and deliver unique guest experiences. This spirit of innovation coupled with a higher rate of adoption for new technologies, makes this exciting for the sector as a whole.”
The latest figures from Top Hotel News show that the current hotel pipeline alone stands at over 163 projects with 72,617 rooms. Further growth will be propelled by some of the world’s largest giga-projects and tourism destinations such as the Neom in Tabuk, the Red Sea Project and Amaala to name just a few.
The Red Sea Project alone encompasses an archipelago of more than 90 islands, desert, mountain canyons, dormant volcanoes and ancient heritage sites extending over 28,000 km² and delivering 50 hotels (just over 8,000 keys) as well as over 1,000 residential properties.
The opportunity for the global hospitality industry is significant and the scope for digital solutions and services to underpin the delivery of these plans is vital. The team at Toggle Market representing their premier B2B SaaS enabled Marketplace www.togglehospitality.com will be attending the upcoming Future Hospitality Summit in Saudi Arabia this coming 24-25 May 2022 organised by hospitality experts Bench Events.
 Abhishek T, Marcos E, Edwin R, Samrat R, Mohd N, Magna G, Role of tourism and hospitality business in economic development, Materials Today: Proceedings, 2021,,ISSN 2214-7853,https://doi.org/10.1016/j.matpr.2021.07.059.
 Saudi Tourism Authority (https://sta.gov.sa)
 WorldData (www.worlddata.info)
 Hahn, Juliana, Country overview: Over 160 new hotels lined up for Saudi Arabia, Top Hotel News, 25 May 2021 (https://tophotel.news/country-overview-over-160-new-hotels-lined-up-for-saudi-arabia-infographic)