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The evolution of tourism, in Saudi Arabia: a promising new global destination emerges

Published: 05 April 2024

By Dr. Fahad Bin Mushyat


The Kingdom’s rapid progress on the journey to redefining its legacy and economic landscape through tourism, as part of the Vision 2030 initiative, demonstrates the nation’s willingness to embrace change. The development of this sector does not just signify diversification, it also serves as a platform for sharing fascinating insights into a once closely guarded cultural heritage, on a worldwide scale.

The diverse natural landscapes of the Kingdom, from the captivating Red Sea coastlines and vast deserts dotted with historic ancient sites to verdant mountain retreats, offer a wealth of exploration opportunities, coupled with a heritage of Arabian hospitality. The country’s dedication to sharing the warmth of its welcome is evident in the recent investments and endeavors aimed at unlocking the untapped potential of its tourism industry.

The establishment of ASFAR by the Public Investment Fund stands as a step in Saudi Arabia’s efforts to advance its tourism and hospitality aspirations. ASFAR plays a leading role in driving the development of tourism infrastructure and immersive experiences that will attract international visitors and investors, while catalyzing positive change across diverse sectors.

Advancing through Investment and Innovation

Saudi Arabia’s tourism sector has grown and will continue to do so, with mounting revenue projections anticipated, especially within the hotel industry, over the upcoming years. The sector has attracted US$13 billion in private sector tourism investments and is on target for a 28% increase in tourism revenue in 2024. This investment will expand hotel infrastructure by up to 200,000 rooms, enhance the global tourism rank and further the nation’s progress towards the Vision’s target of welcoming 150 million tourists annually by 2030.

At the heart of this surge is a dual-focused strategy aimed at attracting investments and fostering an economically and environmentally sustainable tourism ecosystem. This approach values and supports local communities, their environment, and their cultural heritage. While heavily publicized initiatives such as NEOM and the Red Sea Project are the tip of the iceberg, they do showcase Saudi Arabia’s commitment to innovative eco-design that harmoniously blends natural beauty with top-tier tourist facilities, all while anchoring sustainable development.

But the narrative expands beyond these Giga projects. On both macro and micro scales, entities like ASFAR are integral parts of an entire ecosystem working diligently to develop infrastructure and radically transform the tourism industry from the ground up. A strategic investment drive that extends across the value and supply chains is critical to energizing promising destinations.

These smaller-scale projects complement the colossal endeavors, cultivating promising smaller cities and unlocking the potential of beautiful destinations. They invite investors to enter in a market ripe with opportunity, offering the chance to both contribute to and benefit from the flourishing Saudi tourism tapestry. Saudi Arabia’s commitment is clear: to create a thriving tourism domain where natural wonders and world-class attractions meet sustainable, long-lasting solutions.

Looking Ahead; Prosperity with Preservation

However, Saudi Arabia’s visionary aspirations go beyond economic advancement and diversification. It aims to safeguard and honor its cultural legacy, while embracing modernity. Investments in heritage tourism and the creation of curated attractions highlight the Kingdom’s mission to provide an immersive experience for international visitors, while allowing its people to retain their identity.

The rapid progress towards tourism targets, with the achievement of the 100 million milestone in tourist numbers achieved seven years ahead of schedule, demonstrate Saudi Arabia’s success in transforming its tourism sector and that the 150 million annual tourist target is not just realistic, but imminently attainable.

This national drive, to which ASFAR is proud to contribute, is fulfilling the promise to position Saudi Arabia as a premier global tourist destination making significant contributions, to the country’s economy, cultural standing and global recognition.

Looking ahead, the confluence of driven individuals, knowledgeable investors, crucial plans, and international alliances will play a key role in achieving the comprehensive goals of the National Tourism Strategy. Proud to welcome the world to join our nation in investment opportunities, in tourism, culture and entertainment to turn potential into reality.