Saudi Arabia’s tourism horizon: Exclusive interview with Alhasan Aldabbagh on Vision 2030 and strengthening ties with the Chinese market

As Saudi Arabia charts its ambitious Vision 2030 tourism blueprint, its focus on the Chinese market is unmistakable. In an exclusive interview with ITB China News, Alhasan Aldabbagh, President-APAC of the Saudi Tourism Authority, discusses this strategic alignment and the nation’s transformative projects

Considering Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 plan, how does the Chinese market fit into this long-term tourism strategy? 
Saudi Arabia is deeply committed to the Chinese market with an aspiration to host 5 million Chinese visitors by 2030. Recognising China’s stature as an economic giant, we identify a significant potential for tourism expansion. ITB China emerges as an invaluable platform for us, allowing us to introduce our latest initiatives that promise a delightful travel experience for Chinese tourists. Through our continuous efforts and customised strategies, we envision Saudi Arabia evolving as a top choice for Chinese travelers.

What steps has Saudi Arabia taken to cater to Chinese tourists? 
Saudi Arabia has been diligently enhancing its accessibility and connectivity to resonate with Chinese visitors. Our official tourism website,, is now Mandarin-compatible, and the Riyadh Airport has been updated with Mandarin signages. The website is also now accessible in Mandarin. We’re channeling resources into training our tour guides in Mandarin to ensure a more immersive experience for our guests. Our engagement with Chinese tourists is also amplified through our presence on popular social media platforms like WeChat, Weibo, and Xiao Hong Shu. To cater to the specific needs of Chinese travelers, we’ve established a dedicated hotline, 400-661-2480, and have incorporated Union Pay across our major tourist destinations. On the connectivity front, Saudi Arabia has welcomed China into its expedited 3-minute e-visa program. Chinese tourists flying via SAUDIA can now enjoy a complimentary hotel stay courtesy of our 96-hour Stopover Visa program. Furthermore, we’re actively collaborating with airlines to amplify direct routes and augment flight frequencies. It’s worth noting that SAUDIA has recently initiated direct flights connecting Jeddah-Beijing and Riyadh-Beijing, and we’re optimistic about introducing flights from Shanghai in the foreseeable future.

Saudi Arabia has announced several mega projects as part of its tourism and infrastructure development. Can you provide an update on the progress of these? 
Saudi Arabia is pioneering some of the world’s most visionary tourism projects. The $500 billion NEOM city, envisioned to be entirely powered by renewable energy, and the Red Sea Project, a luxury tourism initiative spanning several islands, stand as testimonies to our ambition. The Red Sea Project is on a swift trajectory, with the first phase slated for completion by 2023, encompassing 16 hotels. Esteemed brands like Ritz Carlton Reserve, Four Seasons Hotels, and Rosewood have already partnered with us. NEOM is prepping to launch Sindalah in early 2024, which will feature 9 golf courses and 469 rooms. Diriyah, backed by a $63.2 billion masterplan, is poised to become a global cultural epicentre by 2030, with partnerships from 38 hotel brands. Al Ula, which houses the UNESCO World Heritage site of Hegra, recently celebrated the opening of Banyan Tree in 2022 and is gearing up for the inauguration of Wadi AlFann, Valley of the Arts, in 2024. Cruise Saudi envisions a metamorphosis of our coastline into a sustainable tourist paradise, with a target of 1.3 million cruise passenger visits by 2035.

As the official partner destination at ITB China this year, how significant is this platform for Saudi Arabia in promoting its tourism offerings? 
The bond between Saudi Arabia and China has been strengthening over the years, and our association as an official destination partner at ITB China is a reflection of this robust relationship. ITB China presents us with a golden opportunity to reiterate our commitment to the Chinese market and spotlight our objective of hosting 5 million Chinese visitors as part of our Vision 2030. Our delegation is keenly looking forward to forging deeper connections with local partners and underscoring our dedication and tailored initiatives for the Chinese audience.

What will Saudi Arabia be highlighting at its stand at ITB China this year? 
Attendees can anticipate a vivid portrayal of Saudi Arabia’s untouched natural vistas, its profound cultural legacy, and the legendary Arabian hospitality. Our booth will shed light on our relentless endeavours to elevate awareness about our nation and to acquaint trade partners with our offerings meticulously crafted for Chinese tourists. Key attractions encompass collaborative marketing campaigns with premier trade partners, a suite of over 80 products tailored for Chinese tourists, the unveiling of new SAUDIA routes, our expedited e-visa program, the 96-hour Stopover Visa initiative, the Mandarin-adapted portal, and the rollout of Union Pay across our prime tourist landmarks.

Stand F29/G29

NEOM: Sustainable luxury

Saudi Arabia’s groundbreaking NEOM city, underpinned by a massive $500 billion investment, is shaping up to be the epitome of sustainable luxury on a global scale. Entirely harnessed by renewable energy, the city’s next big unveil, the Sindalah sector, is slated for a 2024 debut. It promises 9 world-class golf courses and 469 opulent rooms, setting new standards in luxury. As the world keenly watches, this ambitious project not only underscores Saudi Arabia’s commitment to sustainable luxury tourism while positioning the nation as a trailblazer in harmonizing environmental consciousness with unparalleled opulence in the tourism sector.

Saudi Arabia's tourism horizon: Exclusive interview with Alhasan Aldabbagh on Vision 2030 and strengthening ties with the Chinese market
Saudi Arabia's tourism horizon: Exclusive interview with Alhasan Aldabbagh on Vision 2030 and strengthening ties with the Chinese market
Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *