March 7, 2023

Saudi Arabia makes a strong debut at ITB Berlin 2023

Having opened to international tourism only 3 years ago, the up-and-coming destination shared its strong ambitions and recent achievements during its opening press conference at ITB Berlin 2023

Saudi Arabia is the world’s fastest growing tourism destination in the G20, and has made tourism development THE top priority in the framework of its Vision 2030 strategic plan. Making its debut as an exhibitor at ITB Berlin this year, Saudi wows visitors as the biggest exhibitor at this year’s show.

The Middle Eastern destination showcased its rich heritage and culture to attendees at its press conference on Monday afternoon. In addition to investments of several billion US$ in recent years, the country is dedicated to developing its tourism industry from a human perspective – building it in perfect harmony with nature while giving back to the communities it has inherited from.

During an inspiring press conference, members of Saudi Arabia’s tourism industry shared its latest ventures and innovations with the world at Messe Berlin’s Palais um Funkturm. The audience was taken on a journey through history, beginning in Diriyah “where it all began” followed by the ancient roots of AlUla and the Red Sea Development mega project.

Hazim Al Hazmi, President Europe and Americas at Saudi Tourism Authority, opened the event with a summary of the country’s magnificent offering and its ambition to become a key member of the global society from a human perspective.

“For the past three years, we have invested a lot,” he told an eager audience. “Saudi is not only blessed with a natural diversity, from its desert dunes and very long coastline on the Red Sea to its mountains, greenery and natural resources that enable us to unlock, invest and offer all this to our tourists.” Mr Al Hazmi went on to praise the country’s cultural offering too, including a “rich pool of assets” from art and music to food and fashion.

Saudi Arabia received 2.5 million international visitors in January alone

A wealth of opportunity and adventure was highlighted during the presentation including Saudi’s six UNESCO world heritage sites, diverse natural topography, Makkah and Madinah, and $800 billion government investment in developing the sector. “This makes Saudi the biggest investor in the tourism industry globally,” Mr Al Hazmi enthused. “Three years ago, we launched the first ever tourism visa to Saudi Arabia, opening the doors to the country and showing the world that we are welcoming everyone with open hearts and open minds.”

Accessibility to Saudi has further been improved, with Schengen, UK, and US residents now having access to a Saudi visa on arrival, while transiting travellers flying Saudia or Flynas can take advantage of its free stopover visa and explore the country for up to 96 hours on the way to their final destination. Further investments have been made in its hotels, cultural heritage sites, roads and airports with airline connections to 140 cities worldwide including more than 30 in Europe.

Inviting ITB Berlin attendees to take part in Saudi’s “amazing journey,” Mr Al Hazmi highlighted how the country has recently signed 40 agreements, connected with more than 11,000 trade partners globally, and hosted more than 500 trade partners in the past year. Furthermore, it saw a record 93.5 million visitors last year and achieved a growth of 121% YoY enabling it to move up the ranks on the world stage of tourism.

“We have a very clear vision with very clear coordinates of success – to be one of the top five global destinations by 2030, and we have already achieved excellent results. I invite you all to take part in this amazing journey,” he concluded.

We have a very clear vision – to be one of the top five global destinations by 2030

Diriyah – The City of Earth
Described as a ‘place that transcends time’ by Abdulrahman Aljefri, Destination Director at Diriyah, presented a sensational video and unveiled a new chapter for the ancient city of Diriyah, famously built from mud bricks. The marketing campaign celebrates the town’s history while embracing the future and bringing people together by inviting the world to discover its magic. The destination has so far welcomed 700,000 visitors since its launch in Q4, 2022. Plans are underway to build further museums, hotels and venues using 180 million mud bricks, highlighting Diriyah as a sustainable destination.

AlUla – Ancient Roots
Home to Saudi Arabia’s first UNESCO heritage site, AlUla was the country’s first destination to be developed. Filled with monuments and tombs, the city now boasts four heritage sites and is surrounded by 2.3 million date trees and 200,000 citrus trees. Attendees at the conference were introduced to magnificent sites that are still widely unexplored including Khaybar, an oasis in the middle of a lava field, and Tayma, the seat of the last Babylonian king.

Last year, visitor numbers increased by 23% to 183,000 and the city aims to grow its current 580 room keys to 5,000 by 2030. But as the destination grows, it is also committed to sustainable wildlife and community programmes as well as remaining an important science hub with the world’s biggest archeological dig currently underway. Julia Stubenböck, of the Royal Commission for AlUla Germany, told the audience: “What’s really important to us is that AlUla is more than a tourist destination. We want to create a unique experience and a welcoming place for both guests and locals.”

The Red Sea & Amaala – The Future of Tourism
Red Sea Development aims to reach new heights when it comes to building in harmony with – rather than against – nature. The destination’s Brand & Marketing Executive Director Abdullah AlZahrani gave an update on its two new luxury tourism destinations – the Red Sea and Amaala. The former will launch by the end of Q1 with three of its brand new 16 resorts and an airport dedicated to the region. While the latter will open by Q4, 2024 bringing a fantastic wellness destination to the table with almost 3,000 hotel rooms by the end of 2027.

Hall 3.2 / Stand 203

PHOTO: Hazim Al Hazmi, President Europe & Americas, Saudi Tourism Authority,