Saudi Arabia's travel and tourism sector is expected to grow by an average 11 per cent annually over the next decade, making it the fastest-growing in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, according to a report by a global travel body on Monday.
According to the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC)'s latest Economic Impact Report (EIR), this annual growth, which is more than six times the 1.8 per cent growth rate for the country's overall economy, will contribute significantly to the kingdom's economic recovery.
By 2032, the sector will contribute 635 billion riyals (approximately $170 billion) to Saudi Arabia's GDP, representing 17.1 per cent of the total economy.
Travel and tourism employment could also double over the same period, the forecast stated, creating over 1.4 million jobs, with almost three million employed within the sector by 2032.
As part of the kingdom's efforts to shift away from oil-dependency, and in line with Vision2030, Saudi Arabia has been developing its tourism industry. Prior to the pandemic, the sector contributed 9.7 per cent to the kingdom's GDP, falling to 6.6 per cent in 2020.
"Travel and tourism will become a driving force of the Saudi Arabian economy and will surpass the goals set out in its Vision 2030 blueprint," said Julia Simpson, WTTC president and chief executive.
Saudi Arabia is scheduled to host the WTTC's 22nd Global Summit in Riyadh this November.
"I am delighted the kingdom is hosting our 22nd Global Summit, where we will be able to continue our efforts of showcasing the importance of the travel and tourism sector and look ahead to the future of travel," Simpson said.
In May it was reported that Saudi Arabia aimed to exceed 70 million tourist visits this year, having attracted 62 million last year.