RIYADH — The volume of spending by tourists coming to Saudi Arabia last year reached about SR101 billion ($26.93 billion), an increase of 8.02 percent (SR7.5 billion) compared to SR93.5 billion ($24.93 billion) in 2018.
The total tourism spending in Saudi Arabia through domestic tourism as well as through tourists coming from abroad last year registered a growth of 8.8 percent, reaching SR154 billion. The spending of tourists from abroad accounted for 65.6 percent of the total spending.
These figures were from the report released by the Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority (SAMA) and the Ministry of Tourism. According to the data, the year 2019 posted the highest growth rate over the last three years, recording the highest ever spending by tourists coming to Saudi Arabia.
The report showed that Saudi Arabia is witnessing a shift toward the tourism sector as the country is revitalizing it to make it contribute to the diversification of the economy within the framework of the National Transformation Program, as it is one of the major revenue sources of the national economy.
Saudi Arabia aims to develop the tourism sector as part of the Saudi Vision 2030, by providing various tourism options, especially after the encouraging results from the launching of tourist visa regime in September 2019, with the issuance of a total of 500,000 visas by the end of February 2020, before the outbreak of the global coronavirus pandemic crisis.
There have been a total of 16.48 million tourism trips to the Kingdom during 2019, compared to 15.3 million trips in the previous year, an increase of 7.6 percent (1.16 million trips). Out of the total trips, 37.7 percent were from the Gulf countries followed by the South Asian countries, which accounted for 16.7 percent, and the Middle East countries with about 14.7 percent. Countries from East Asia and the Pacific came in the fourth position with 11.1 percent, and it was followed by Africa 7.7 percent, Europe 7.3 percent and America 4.8 percent.
An overwhelming 73.2 percent of the total spending of these tourists was for religious purposes, and that was followed by business and conference purposes with 18.2 percent, then visiting relatives and friends 5.5 percent, and holidays and shopping and other purposes of tourism spending, but it does not include international transportation costs.
The volume of spending for domestic tourism also grew during the year 2019 to reach a record figure of SR53 billion, an increase of 10.4 percent, compared to SR48 billion in 2018. About 40 percent of the volume of expenditures was for the purpose of trips and shopping, while 25 percent for the purposes of family visits and friends, while 27 percent of the expenditures were for religious purposes.
Domestic tourism trips registered a growth of 12.6 percent, reaching 48 million trips last year while comparing to 42.6 million trips in 2018, the report indicated.