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Saudi Tourism’s Future Depends on Private Sector Partnerships

This sponsored content was created in collaboration with a Skift partner.

The Saudi government’s $1 trillion investment in tourism is starting to yield returns. The country welcomed over 100 million visitors in 2023, with a combined total spend of $67 billion, achieving its tourism goal seven years ahead of schedule.

Air connectivity is at an all-time high. Domestic tourism is flourishing, as Almosafer’s Travel Trend Report highlighted at the 2024 Arabian Travel Market (ATM) in Dubai. Continuing with this momentum, the country has raised its tourism targets to attract 150 million visitors by 2030 and added 320,000 new hotel keys to boost its supply chain.

While Saudi’s tourism industry is currently keeping pace, it requires significant efforts to reach these future goals. Many of its new destinations are still developing their travel infrastructure or catering to niche markets. The country also faces the challenge of integrating these emerging markets into its existing tourism framework and effectively marketing them to attract the right visitors. 

As development progresses, destination management organizations (DMOs) in the country have an opportunity to think holistically about how they manage and promote tourism. Success will depend on how well they integrate a multifaceted travel ecosystem to create a cohesive narrative that keeps tourists coming back.

Unifying a Fragmented System

The travel ecosystem is inherently complex and involves multiple stakeholders, such as airlines, hotels, tour operators, local businesses, and governmental bodies. Disjointed coordination across these entities can lead to inconsistent service standards, management inefficiencies, and a diluted visitor experience. DMOs must work towards unifying these elements so Saudi Arabia can achieve its ambitious tourism goals. This involves aligning various stakeholders’ objectives, leveraging technology to integrate services, and a unified approach to destination marketing.

One company that plays an important role as a partner in the ecosystem is Almosafer, a Saudi-based travel platform that provides holistic travel and tourism services to consumers and businesses across various market segments.

Almosafer integrates several specialized services under its umbrella. Its destination management company, Discover Saudi, connects global tour operators and travel agents to experiential tourism options in Saudi Arabia and manages comprehensive travel itineraries for clients, including transportation, accommodation, dining, and exclusive experiences. Its Hajj and Umrah service provider, Mawasim, offers comprehensive travel packages that include visa processing, accommodations, and on-ground transportation tailored to pilgrims’ needs. Other arms of the business include Almosafer Activities, KSA’s first holistic tours and activities platform; Almosafer Business, which manages business travel needs; and the Consumer Travel business, which tailors services to the right target audiences.

“Almosafer is uniquely positioned to help destinations succeed due to its years of local market experience. Our presence across all verticals of the tourism ecosystem means we can penetrate a wider audience through our state-of-the-art proprietary technology. We can drive our common objectives further by integrating and onboarding key aspects of the local travel ecosystem into our digital portal,” said Muzzammil Ahussain, CEO of Almosafer.

It also helps build capacity by conducting training early in the destination development phase. These trainings provide customer-facing teams the necessary skills and insights to understand and communicate each destination’s unique value proposition, helping them effectively engage with visitors from the start.

“We have access to unlimited data due to our high-tech digital reach and partnerships with travel tech companies, which enables us to deliver customized and targeted content to relevant audiences across the globe. We deeply understand customer preferences and can help new destinations create tailored experiences and promote them to specific audience segments,” Ahussain said.

Experiential travel is highly valued today. Destinations are no longer just geographical locations to travel to but platforms for curated experiences. Seasonality is fading thanks to social media feeding year-round travel inspiration. This means they must cater to a perpetual demand for travel in an increasingly experience-driven landscape. This market evolution demands a clear understanding of what experiences to offer, how to present them, and when to launch them to captivate what type of audiences. 

“DMOs in Saudi Arabia are at various stages of development, with some focusing on raising awareness and others beginning to drive conversions and bookings. Market research guides us in creating personalized promotions and strategic ad campaigns tailored to these specific stages. Every traveler touchpoint needs to be meticulously crafted to ensure the highest engagement,” Ahussain said.

Public-private partnerships are indispensable for DMOs to navigate these complexities successfully. In a sector marked by fragmentation, where diverse stakeholders operate in silos, effective partnerships can bridge promotional divides and provide a unified approach to destination marketing by pooling resources, sharing knowledge, and aligning goals across sectors.

For example, the recent Almosafer and Red Sea Global partnership focuses on embedding tourism experiences from The Red Sea and AMAALA destinations into the country’s wider travel narratives and promoting RSG’s offerings across Almosafer’s business portfolios. Another partnership between Almosafer and Aseer Development Authority (ASDA) aims to promote the mountainous Aseer region by adding the destination’s leisure offerings to the Almosafer Activities portal. 

These types of collaborations go beyond simple promotion to integrate destinations into a comprehensive travel network that addresses various market segments, from inbound and outbound consumer travel to religious tourism, the meetings, incentives, conferences, and exhibitions (MICE) sector, and corporate or business-related travel. They can help overcome the inherent challenges of a fragmented travel industry and deliver targeted solutions that connect businesses with their ideal consumers and provide travelers with tailored experiences — ultimately making Saudi Arabia more accessible and attractive to international tourists.

“At Aseer, we’re incredibly excited about working with existing and future partners on shared objectives through strategic partnerships and projects to unlock Aseer Region’s full potential. Our collective vision and coordinated actions are key to transforming Aseer into a premier year-round destination that captivates and inspires travelers from around the world,” said Hashim Al Dabbagh, Acting CEO of Aseer Development Authority.

Sustaining Growth Through Partnerships

Saudi Arabia’s tourism agenda is clear: to attract upmarket tourists through a slew of upscale luxury resorts. However, it can only maintain its current momentum by leveraging the strength of its partnerships. While the country’s blend of culture, history, and nature provides a strong foundation, the vast scope of its tourism sector requires a unified approach to tourism management to ensure ongoing success.

“Strong private sector partnerships are the cornerstone of Saudi Arabia’s tourism evolution. Collaboration allows us to collectively leverage innovative marketing strategies, aligning our goals and creating a cohesive narrative that resonates with travelers worldwide. With our first resorts already open, our partnership with Almosafer, among others, is essential in enabling us to tap into a deep understanding of traveler expectations. As we continue to expand our portfolio, these alliances will play a pivotal role in showcasing the unparalleled beauty and cultural richness of our destinations,” said John Pagano, Group CEO at Red Sea Global.

“Being one of Saudi Arabia’s most established tourism projects gives us unique insight into the experiences of global travelers, many of whom are visiting the country for the first time. Achieving our goals requires a solid foundation built on trust and collaboration with diverse stakeholders, from travel trade partners to local communities,” said Rami Almoallim, vice president of destination management and marketing at the Royal Commission for AlUla (RCU).  “This will enable us to deliver outstanding, tailored experiences to everyone who visits, encompassing events, hospitality, nature, culture, heritage, adventure offerings, and more.” 

As Saudi Arabia continues establishing itself as a leading global tourist destination, the road ahead requires unwavering collaboration and innovation. Committing to a unified strategy is one key to overcoming the challenges that lie ahead.

Learn more about Almosafer.

This content was created collaboratively by Almosafer and Skift’s branded content studio, SkiftX.

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