Outbound tourism has been growing remarkably in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia due to favourable economic conditions and disposable income. According to a recent report, nearly 4.5 million Saudi tourists spent SR131.25 billion ($35 billion) in foreign countries in 2015, which is poised to touch more than SR375 billion ($100 billion) in 15 years at an annual rate of 15 per cent.
Elaf Group, a SEDCO Holding Group company and a leading provider of travel, tourism and hospitality services, is riding the outbound wave and has created several outbound packages to various destinations around the world.
However, it is what is happening inside the kingdom, that interests us a lot more. So, TTN caught up with chief executive Ziyad Bin Mahfouz to share some exclusive insights into the dynamic Saudi Arabian market.
Have you noticed a perceptible shift in market sentiment after Saudi Vision 2030 was announced?
Saudi Vision 2030 has given a clear direction and a blueprint for the country’s development, especially its travel and tourism sectors. The forward-looking vision, which helps the nation steer away from its dependence on the energy sector, bodes well for the tourism and hospitality sectors.
It will further the growth and progress of both industries, enabling them to contribute more to the country’s GDP. In line with this vision, the hospitality sector is enhancing its services and upgrading domestic accommodations while the tourism industry is improving local historical and heritage sites as well as creating more tourist attractions.
What developments are happening in the country to support travel and tourism?
Saudi Arabia is undertaking several strategic reforms to better serve its growing visitors and make the country more tourism friendly. Firstly, the country is considering various measures to make the visa issuance process swift, simple and seamless to enable more foreign guests to visit. Secondly, Saudi Vision 2030 includes the development of historical sites, coastlines and the entertainment industry to further drive tourism. Lastly, but also very vital, is the development of infrastructure projects such as the Haramain High Speed Rail, the Jeddah and Riyadh Metros, the redevelopment of the King Abdulaziz International Airport, Saudi land-bridge, the expansion of King Abdullah Port, and Taif International Airport.
This will not only ensure the smooth arrival and departure of tourists but also facilitate their quick and easy movement within the country.
What has the hospitality market in Saudi Arabia been like in 2016 and what are the expectations from 2017?
While Saudi Arabia’s hospitality industry is robust, there are strategic plans to boost the momentum further. In 2016, the country welcomed around 18 million visitors and is poised to host more in the current year. The aim is to receive over 25.8 million tourists from all over the world by 2020 to boost the revenue generated from the tourism and hospitality sectors to support its diversification activities.
What is Elaf Group planning for 2017 and beyond?
Encouraged by the positive response to our activities last year, we will continue with the same to inform our international customers about our packages, keeping them abreast of the latest facilities and amenities available in the Kingdom.
We are committed to offer innovative, affordable, and efficient services to our customers while keeping them at par with international standards. Moreover, we will continue to strengthen our presence in Saudi Arabia with the opening of two more properties and expand our operations overseas, especially in the GCC through strategic alliances.
Tell us about the success of the religious tourism component of your business?
Elaf Group is a full-fledged travel and tourism company with diverse portfolios, including a highly successful religious tourism segment. We specialise in providing affordable, efficient and all-inclusive travel packages for Hajj and Umrah as well as, during the period of Ramadan, Umrah offers. We enjoy market leadership because we ensure the ultimate comfort, convenience and well-being of our guests, during their stay with us.
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