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Saudi Arabia Emerges as Top Tourism Hotspot

Saudi Arabia, often overlooked for winter vacations, is gaining global attention with the Saudi Tourism Authority's 17,000-event schedule, including the renowned "Winter at Tantora" and vibrant folklore festivals in AlUla, making it an unexpected winter favorite.

A few years ago, winter entertainment in Saudi Arabia was limited to picnics, however, this season has seen an increase in foreign visitors who are lured by a variety of events.

Abdullah Al-Dakhil, spokesperson for the Saudi Tourism Authority, highlights tourism's pivotal role in diversifying the economy and creating jobs, aligning with Vision 2030.

Recent achievements include visitor spending exceeding $26.6 billion in the first three quarters of 2023, making the Kingdom the world's second-fastest-growing tourism destination. Tourist numbers soared by 142 percent in the first half of 2023, reaching 14.2 million visitors, with a corresponding 132 percent increase in spending.

The National Tourism Strategy changed its goal from 100 million to an ambitious 150 million tourists annually by 2030. In the first seven months of 2023, 17 million international visitors were welcomed, targeting 30 million by year-end.

Celebrities like Will Smith, Johnny Depp, Sofia Vergara, Alicia Keys, and Andrew Garfield have visited, enhancing the Kingdom's appeal. Historic sites like Jeddah’s Al-Balad and Riyadh's cultural events contribute to the Kingdom's resurgence.

Riyadh introduces attractions like the Middle East’s first Disney Castle and the CR7 Signature Museum. The Red Sea coast sees a surge in luxury resort reservations with the opening of its new airport.

In the northwest, AlUla, listed in Conde Nast Traveler's "Seven Wonders of the World for 2023," hosts the AlUla Arts Festival, blending history, music, and stargazing. The Kingdom's transformation is evident, driven by the Saudi Tourism Authority's establishment in 2020.

The industry's growth is seen in reaching pre-pandemic tourist levels in the first quarter of 2023. Leisure tourism introduced in 2019, with the new e-visa, has turned tourism into a key economic driver.

Fahd Hamidaddin, CEO of the Saudi Tourism Authority, envisions tourism as the new oil, symbolizing the Kingdom's shift towards global tourism. Saudi Arabia's role as the official host of World Tourism Day in 2023 underscores its industry-changing impact.

Upcoming projects like Sindalah and NEOM's Norlana promise to elevate Saudi Arabia's standing as a global tourism hub. The Kingdom’s first ski resort in Trojena and winning bids for hosting major events further solidify its position.

Continued efforts by the Saudi government, including new visas and collaborations, indicate a commitment to sustained growth. Saudi Arabia's status as the largest tourism investor, with $800 billion expected by 2030, reaffirms its dedication to becoming a premier destination.

Saudi Arabia is becoming a top choice for last-minute winter getaways, highlighting its dynamic transformation into an exciting global destination.

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