Saudi Arabia focuses on Chinese tourism

Saudi Arabia has raised its growth expectations as a result of improved relations with China
El presidente chino Xi Jinping y al príncipe heredero de Arabia Saudí, Mohamed bin Salman - PHOTO/AP
Chinese President Xi Jinping and Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman - PHOTO/AP
  1. Five million Chinese tourists a year by 2030
  2. A recruitment strategy that is already underway
  3. Artificial Intelligence as an empowering tool

In September last year, Saudi Arabia set itself targets for attracting tourism from Asia, specifically from China. However, the development of policies with Xi Jinping's government and the growth of Saudi expectations has led Riyadh to set even more ambitious goals than it had less than a year ago.

Five million Chinese tourists a year by 2030

That is the figure they are aiming for in six years' time. The date marked in red on the Saudi agenda, around which a good part of its initiatives revolve, as represented by its mega-project Saudi Vision 2030. In September, Riyadh set a target of three million tourists per year from China by 2030, an idea that has changed radically in recent months.

PHOTO/ Saudi Press Agency via REUTERS - Funcionarios posan para una foto delante de un Boeing 878-9 Dreamliner, el nuevo avión de la aerolínea saudí Riyadh Airs que llegó al Aeropuerto Internacional Rey Jalid en Riad, Arabia Saudí, el 12 de junio de 2023
PHOTO/ Saudi Press Agency via REUTERS - Officials pose for a photo in front of a Boeing 878-9 Dreamliner, the new aircraft of Saudi airline Riyadh Airs which arrived at King Khalid International Airport in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia June 12, 2023

It has done so because ‘China is a very important country and an important market for us... and we have multiple strategies that we are implementing’. These are the words of Gloria Guevara, senior advisor to the Saudi Ministry of Tourism, who assures that ties with Beijing have not only improved exponentially in recent times, but that the idea is that they will continue to do so in the coming years.

A recruitment strategy that is already underway

Nine months ago, when a deal to make Saudi Arabia a ‘major destination’ for China was announced, Tourism Minister Ahmed Al-Khatib said the target was three million. A number that even at the time seemed perhaps overly ambitious - considering that last year the number of Chinese tourists did not exceed 100,000 - but which the trips of Fahd Hamid Al-Din, executive director of the Saudi Arabian Tourism Authority, to China have made grow.

El presidente chino Xi Jinping pronuncia un discurso durante la sexta reunión del Consejo Empresarial Franco-Chino en el Teatro Marigny de París, Francia, el 06 de mayo de 2024 - REUTERS/ MOHAMMED BADRA
Chinese President Xi Jinping delivers a speech during the sixth meeting of the Franco-Chinese Business Council at the Marigny Theatre in Paris, France, May 6, 2024 - REUTERS/ MOHAMMED BADRA

The rapprochement between Riyadh and Beijing is a reality, and the first evidence, at least in tourism terms, are the Mandarin Chinese signs that can be read at the Saudi capital's airport. ‘We train tour guides and work with hotel groups like Jinjiang and Radisson to personalise experiences so we can get the offers Chinese tourists expect,’ is one of the phrases already displayed at King Khalid International Airport.

Developments that began with the key step of launching the first direct flights between Riyadh and Beijing in August 2023 by Saudi Airlines. This gesture was responded to by China Southern Airlines in mid-April this year. Approaches that are part of a comprehensive and, above all, highly innovative strategy.

Artificial Intelligence as an empowering tool

Although there are many other countries that Saudi Arabia has also set its sights on to attract tourists, China remains the main target, ahead of India and other European countries that are part of an agreement between Riyadh and the platform. This project includes travel products and payment solutions to finance them based on artificial intelligence.

They aim to harness ‘the power of the latest technologies and innovations to improve tourism across the Kingdom and shape its future’. Huawei and the smart marketing platform Petal Addis are also collaborating to ‘enhance the experience of Chinese tourists in Saudi Arabia through digital tourism services’.