The rise of Saudi Arabia as a tourist destination has the potential to lure Chinese travellers to the Arabian Gulf and away from their traditional holiday hotspots in Southeast Asia, an OAG forum has heard.
Aviation consultant Willy Boulter said new destinations were always a magnet for travellers willing to try new places and both Saudi Arabia and Qatar were keen to improve their share of the Chinese market.
John Grant, chief analyst at OAG, the aviation market analyst, said mass market tourists tended to return to the places where they felt most comfortable. However, he said the emerging destinations in the Middle East would be paying special attention to the Chinese market.
Saudi Arabia is making massive investments in mega tourism projects which are expected to transform the kingdom into one of the largest leisure tourism industries in the world between now and 2030.
These include the US$500-billion mega development Neom which, once completed, will deliver a futuristic mega sustainable city.
Also under development are the $10-bn Qiddiyah Project, spread across 334 sq km in Riyadh, and Amaala, or the Saudi Riviera, located in the northern region with an area of 3,800 sq km.
Another mega venture involves developing a new luxury island destination in the Red Sea.
Ahmed Al-Khateeb, Saudi Arabia's minister of tourism, says the country wants the tourism industry to contribute 10% of its GDP by 2030, or an additional US$70 to US$80 billion.
“Tourists will always have favourite cities that they will return to, but as other countries prioritise Travel & Tourism, we are going to see new and emerging destinations challenging the traditional favourites,” said Julia Simpson, WTTC president & CEO.