Boston, MA -- (SBWIRE) -- 06/17/2014 -- Saudi Arabia has an oil-driven economy, as for several years the country has been dependent on oil and related sectors for economic growth. However, focus has shifted to development of other sectors such as tourism in order to decrease dependence on oil, particularly after the global financial crisis of 2009 when the oil sector declined at a rate of 9.0%. The move will also create employment opportunities in sectors other than oil within the country. Tourism in the country is significantly dependent on religious tourism and has witnessed an increase in the number of pilgrims over the years.
- The presence of Islam's two holiest cities, Mecca and Medina, is a source of a perennial flow of religious tourists, with millions of Muslims visiting Saudi Arabia annually for the Hajj pilgrimage. According to the Saudi Tourism and Antiquities Committee (SCTA) data, of the 17 million tourists who visited Saudi Arabia in 2013, 6.9 million (40.6%) did so for religious reasons.
- The tourism sector heavily relies on international arrivals; inbound tourism expenditure reached SAR58.5 billion (US$15.6 billion) in 2013, compared to SAR41.6 billion (US$11.1 billion) from domestic travel in the same year. This is despite domestic volume being more than international arrivals, with 19.4 million domestic trips against 13.2 million international arrivals.
- There has been a recorded decline in domestic tourism in Saudi Arabia, despite a rise in mean household income across the country. The major reason behind this decrease has been the increasing preference of outbound travel over domestic travel among Saudi Arabian residents. Furthermore, owing to the lack of entertainment options such as cinemas and restaurants allowing men and women to dine together, the Saudis preferred to travel outbound. Infrastructure development works in and around the holy cities of Mecca and Medina also impacted the flow of domestic tourists.
- Religious tourism is the main incentive of travel to Saudi Arabia. Therefore, countries with large Muslim populations are among the major source countries for Saudi Arabia. The presence of the Islamic holy sites Mecca and Medina fuel this demand, particularly during the annual Hajj pilgrimage. Growth was recorded in inbound tourism to Saudi Arabia during the review period, as the number of international arrivals rose from 10.9 million in 2009 to 13.2 million in 2013, at a CAGR of 5.00%. Inbound tourist expenditure increased at a robust CAGR of 14.62%, from SAR34.0 billion (US$9.0 billion) in 2009 to SAR58.5 billion (US$15.6 billion) in 2013.
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Companies Mentioned in this Report: Saudi Arabian Airlines, flynas Company LCC, EgyptAir Saudi Arabia, Emirates Airline Saudi Arabia, flydubai Saudi Arabia, Boudl Hotels & Resorts, InterContinental Hotels Saudi Arabia, Wyndham Hotel Group Saudi Arabia, Accor KSA, Elaf Group, Inc., Al Tayyar Travel Group, Saddik & Mohammed Attar Company, Kanoo Travel Saudi Arabia, Zahid Travel Group, Zamil Travel, Budget Rent A Car Saudi Arabia, Europcar Saudi Arabia, SIXT-KSA, Avis Saudi Arabia, Al Tala'a International Transportation Co. Limited
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