Saudi Arabia Tourism Report Q3 2013 - New Market Report

From: Fast Market Research, Inc.
Published: Tue Aug 06 2013

The Saudi Arabia Tourism Report examines the significant long-term potential offered by the tourism industry, but highlights the potential downward pressure that regional uncertainty could have on arrival numbers as the political landscape changes. Furthermore, the country's strict entrance visa regulations could potentially act as a constraint on the sector's long-term growth potential.

Saudi Arabia's tourist industry performed strongly in 2012. According to figures from the UN World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), Saudi tourism receipts reportedly rose by some 14% year-on-year last year. The majority of inbound tourism flows were from other Gulf states, with His Royal Highness Prince Sultan bin Salman bin Abdul Aziz, President of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA), announcing in May 2013 that the number of Gulf Cooperation Council tourists who visited Saudi Arabia in 2012 totalled 4.9mn. This reportedly represented 34% of total inbound visitors to the Kingdom, who came on short visits to the country.

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This quarter, BMI maintains its forecast of a 7% increase in arrivals for 2013, with an additional 38.6% increase over the 2013-2017 period. This implies total arrivals (for whatever purpose) of almost 24mn by the end of our forecast period in 2017.

One of the main drivers for the tourism industry is religious visits. Saudi Arabia is home to two of Islam's holiest cities, Mecca and Medina, and every year, millions of Muslims go to Mecca for the Hajj, the largest annual pilgrimage in the world. Looking forward, we believe that business travel should prove another strong growth area, especially given Saudi Arabia's status as the world's largest oil exporter and its other large industries, such as defence. The SCTA has already given indications that it wishes to boost the Kingdom's presence in the Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions (MICE) space.

The hospitality sector looks set to grow in tandem with tourist arrivals. BMI forecasts that there will be about 178,870 hotel rooms in Saudi Arabia by 2017, with occupancy rates increasing to 63%. In recent years, a number of international chains have opened their first hotels in the market, including Hyatt and Best Western.

Saudi Arabia will remain reliant on Middle Eastern and Asian nations for the bulk of its inbound tourism flows for the remainder of the forecast period. This is largely due to the Kingdom's strict entrance visa regulations, which can deter some non-Muslim travellers.

However, this is no bad thing for the sector's development, with these regions currently experiencing strong economic growth and rising disposable incomes, especially when compared to the stagnation seen in other regions, notably Europe.

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You may also be interested in these related reports:

- Kenya Tourism Report Q3 2013
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- South Africa Tourism Report Q3 2013
- United Arab Emirates Tourism Report Q3 2013
- Egypt Tourism Report Q3 2013

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