KSA eyes 7.5 mn Indians by 2030

As Saudi Arabia continues its journey towards becoming a global tourism hub, it remains committed to fostering cultural exchange, economic growth, and mutual understanding with countries like India. The Kingdom, through its strategic initiatives, is poised to realise its vision of welcoming millions of visitors and unlocking the full potential of its tourism sector.

Janice Alyosius

In 2016, Saudi Arabia unveiled its vision for the future, built upon three pillars: a vibrant society, an ambitious nation, and a thriving economy. Shedding light on how tourism and travel serve as integral components of the vision, Alhasan Aldabbagh, President, APAC Markets, Saudi Tourism Authority, said that tourism is not merely an industry in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia but a catalyst that drives growth across various sectors. “Tourism is what opens doors, bridges cultures, and allows people to connect. Through that connection, we build partnerships in business, art, communities, technology, science, and literature. It’s really the catalyst for other industries to flourish.”

On the rising number of Indian visitors in 2023, Aldabbagh said, “Last year alone, we welcomed over 1.5 million Indian travellers, marking a 156 per cent growth compared to 2019. This significant growth is something we aim to sustain, continuing the momentum towards our vision of reaching 7.5 million visitors from India to Saudi Arabia (by 2030). This makes India our top source market and Saudi Arabia the number one destination for Indian travellers.”

To further strengthen ties and facilitate travel between the two nations, Saudi Arabia has implemented several initiatives, one of them being enhancing air connectivity. “We have been collaborating with various Indian carriers such as Air India, SpiceJet, Vistara, IndiGo, as well as Saudi national carriers like Saudi Airlines and Flynas. Together, we are adding new routes and increasing flight frequencies to connect different cities in India to Saudi Arabia,” he said.

Additionally, efforts have been made to simplify the visa process, making it more convenient for Indians to visit Saudi Arabia for leisure, business, or pilgrimage. “We have established 10 Tashir VFS offices across India where individuals can apply for leisure, business, family, friends, or Umrah visas. Also, we recently introduced the stopover programme for travellers flying through Saudi Arabia with Saudi Airlines or Flynas, which provides for a 96-hour free stopover visa. Additionally, you can now apply for your visa online through Tashir and VFS offices and have the biometrics collected at your doorstep,” said Aldabbagh. He added, “We have also launched a programme enabling individuals holding UK, US, or Schengen visas in India to apply for an e-visa or visa-on-arrival.”

Saudi Arabia’s dynamic landscape offers something for every traveller, from cultural experiences to adventure and entertainment. “We host numerous events throughout the year, including major sports tournaments and music concerts. The Boulevard in Riyadh, for instance, hosts the world’s largest lifestyle festival,” he said.

 

 

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