RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s attraction for international tourists has seen it shoot up 16 places in the UN’s list of popular traveler destinations to be placed 13th.
The Kingdom rose up from 29th in 2021 on the latest UN World Tourism Organization’s ranking.
According to the World Tourism Barometer, the Kingdom welcomed 16.6 million tourists in 2022 compared to 3.5 million in 2021, endorsing the government’s push to become a major tourism hub in the region.
The Kingdom also jumped 16 ranks in the International Tourism Revenue Index, reaching 11th place globally in 2022, up from the 27th in 2019.
The favorable outcome results from the numerous events and cultural initiatives announced recently as part of the Saudi Vision 2030 plan to get 100 million visitors by the end of this decade.
According to the Saudi Press Agency, the Kingdom received 7.8 million international tourists in the first quarter of 2023, the highest quarterly figures recorded in history.
This figure represents an increase of 64 percent over the same period in 2019, placing the Kingdom in second place, following Qatar, among the list of tourists, revealed the UNWTO.
Moreover, the Kingdom recorded 93.5 million visits in 2022, a 121 percent gain from pre-pandemic international tourist levels.
The report further stated that international tourism is on its way back to pre-pandemic levels, with twice the number of people traveling during the first quarter of 2023 compared to the same period in 2022.
It also indicated that international tourist arrivals reached 80 percent of the pre-pandemic levels in the first three months of 2023, with an anticipated 235 million tourists traveling internationally.
“The Middle East saw the strongest performance, with arrivals exceeding 15 percent of the numbers recorded in the first quarter of 2019. As a result, the Middle East is the first world region to recover pre-pandemic numbers in a full quarter,” the report added.
The Kingdom, also acknowledged as the world’s largest tourism investor, has committed $550 billion to develop new destinations by 2030.