Saudi Arabia’s inbound tourists surge 142% to 14.2m in H1 2023 

Developing the tourism sector is a key ambition for Saudi Arabia as part of its economic diversification plan known as 2030. Shutterstock
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RIYADH: Tourist numbers in Saudi Arabia saw a 142 percent surge in the first half of 2023 with 14.2 million visitors traveling to the Kingdom. 

The year-on-year rise was reported by the Saudi Ministry of Tourism, which also revealed a 132 percent increase in spending by inbound travelers over the same period, registering SR86.9 billion ($23.17 billion). 

Overall figures showed there were 39 million domestic tourists in the Kingdom over the six-month period, with spending from those people hitting SR63.1 million. 

Developing the tourism sector is a key ambition for Saudi Arabia as part of its economic diversification plan known as 2030, and the Kingdom aims to attract 150 million travelers annually by the end of the decade.  

“With the continuous development of the tourism sector, there has been an increase in the number of (inbound) tourists for all purposes with leisure tourists showing the highest growth at 347 percent vs. the first half of 2022,” said the Ministry.  

It added: “Leisure was the top purpose in the number of visitors, achieving an increase of 18 percent compared to the first half of 2022, with 16.6 million tourists accounting for 43 percent of all domestic tourist trips.”  

The ministry added that the outbound tourism sector witnessed a 37 percent growth in the number of tourists in the first half of this year while spending surged by 74 percent compared to the same period in 2022.  

According to the ministry, the rise in outbound tourism in the first half was driven by the lifting of global travel restrictions, in addition to having the start of the summer season and school break in June.  

Non-Saudi residents represented 45 percent of all outbound tourists, while their expenditure made up 66 percent of the total outbound spending, the statement added.  

The Kingdom’s National Tourism Strategy had initially set a target of 100 million tourists annually by 2030.  

However, as Saudi Arabia’s tourist destinations started receiving global attention, the Kingdom’s Foreign Minister Ahmed Al-Khateeb said in October that this ambition has been revised up to 150 million visitors.  

The minister also added that Saudi Arabia will invest over $800 billion into the sector over the next 10 years.