Reporting a 50 pc rise in the number of Indian visitors in 2023, Saudi Arabia is continuing its focus on the Indian market, which is seeks to make the top source market for the Kingdom by the year 2030.
As part of the on-the-ground activities in India that Saudi Tourism Authority, the country’s tourism development organisation, returned to India last week for its third-consecutive participation in OTM Mumbai, a leading travel trade show that concluded on Saturday in the Indian megapolis.
According to a press statement by STA, OTM Mumbai served as a platform focused on strengthening ties between the travel trade and key stakeholders from the world’s fastest-growing tourism destination.
By participating in such Indian trade shows as OTM Mumbai, STA says it is ‘fostering scalable partnerships with the Indian trade association.’
The statement adds that the STA delegation comprised 20 key Saudi stakeholders and prominent associates from various sectors, including Destination Management Organisations (DMOs) such as Red Sea Global, AlUla, Diriyah, DMCs, Hotels, tour operators and airlines, to collectively showcase the diverse offerings of Saudi’s tourism landscape.
“As we continue to diversify our offerings, India has proved to be a major accelerator. We are committed to making India the top source market, aiming to welcome 7.5 million Indian visitors by 2030. To facilitate this, we made visa procedures very easy by introducing e-visa options for Indians holding US, UK and Schengen visas with stamped proof of entry. Applying for visa-on-arrival has become easier than ever as it can be processed at 10 visa centres across India,” says Alhasan Aldabbagh, President, APAC Markets, Saudi Tourism Authority.
STA says that OTM space served as an exceptional platform for networking and holding one-on-one meetings with the members of Indian travel trade associations, tour operators, and travel agents as they were able to learn more about mega projects such as Red Sea Global where ultra-luxe properties such as the Six Senses and St Regis recently opened doors, AlUla, home to the UNESCO World Heritage site of Hegra, and Sindalah which will be opening in NEOM towards the end of this year.
The board adds that a stopover visa can also be applied up to 90 days in advance to visit Saudi for up to 96 hours at these visa facilitation centres when flying with Saudia or Flynas.
“Saudi Arabia has also enhanced connectivity with Air India, Air India Express, Indigo Airlines, Spice Jet and Vistara,” Aldabbagh says. The air connectivity has surged reaching a capacity of 2.8 million seats in 2023, an increase of 31 pc since 2019. Flights from 12 major hubs in India to Riyadh, Jeddah, and Dammam signify the robust lifeline of connectivity that fortifies successful tourism initiatives, the statement adds.
The statement says that during the event, the STA delegation networked with various Indian stakeholders including travel agents, tour operators and event planners, offering insights into Saudi’s diverse tourism options including the world’s largest event extravaganzas as Saudi is hosting 17,000 events, including Riyadh Season, Jeddah Season and Diriyah Season.
STA adds that Saudi also has notable events coming up including the Saudi Cup, February 23-24, Saudi Arabian Grand Prix from March 7 to 9, AlUla Arts Festival from February 9 to March 2 and AlUla Skies Festival from April 10 to 27.
STA says that to further reinforce Saudi’s commitment to India, its delegation plans to conduct a four-city networking event in Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Bengaluru and Delhi, engaging with travel agents and tour operators to foster partnerships and strengthen business ties.