The Saudi Tourism Authority organized its inaugural networking event in Pakistan this week, aiming to showcase Saudi Arabia as more than just a religious destination and highlight its pristine beauty, cultural diversity, and heritage.
While Saudi Arabia has traditionally drawn millions of visitors for religious pilgrimages to Makkah and Madinah, the country is now actively promoting leisure travel as part of its economic diversification strategy outlined in Vision 2030 by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The government has increased its target for domestic and international visitors from 100 million to 150 million by 2030.
Dr. Omar Ayoub, Assistant General Manager at Zamzam.com, a partner of STA, expressed the collective effort to enhance the tourism experience beyond religious aspects. The networking event aimed to present Saudi Arabia as a destination offering various experiences, including its natural beauty, culture, acceptance, inclusion, and diverse products and services.
To boost tourism numbers, the Saudi government has implemented measures such as easing visa conditions, allowing greater freedom of movement for those with Umrah visas. Alhasan Al-Dabbagh, President of Asia-Pacific markets at STA, previously mentioned a target of attracting over 3.5 million visitors from Pakistan by 2030.
Riyadh Season, featuring activities in entertainment, fashion, technology, electronic games, and more, has already attracted over 12 million visitors since October 11 last year. The Kingdom aims to make Riyadh a leading destination for international entertainment and gastronomy.
While tourism currently contributes 2-3 percent to Saudi Arabia’s GDP, the government plans to increase this to 10 percent by 2030 through significant investments in the sector. Future tourism projects include the Red Sea project, featuring high-end island and inland resorts, and the development of AlUla, known for its ancient rock-hewn tombs of Madain Saleh, to attract both local and foreign visitors. AlUla’s development aligns with the broader initiative to preserve pre-Islamic heritage sites, targeting non-Muslim tourists and reinforcing national identity.