Exclusive interview: Fahd Hamidaddin CEO and board member of the Saudi Tourism Authority
Saudi Arabia recently hosted the G20 meeting of tourism ministers. We asked Fahd Hamidaddin, CEO and board member of the Saudi Tourism Authority, how important this event was that in terms of helping the Kingdom stand out as a leading light in the tourism world.
Under the Saudi Presidency this year, the Saudi Ministry of Tourism has taken a lead on addressing the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the global travel and tourism sector.
The Ministry’s leadership has pioneered a uniquely collaborative approach between the public and the private sectors to build a safe environment for travellers and rebuild traveller confidence. From a Saudi Tourism Authority perspective, this responsiveness provided us with a framework to develop and market with the Kingdom’s largest ever domestic tourism campaign – “Saudi Summer” – with complete confidence that visitors would be able to travel safely. Ultimately, these efforts have contributed to shoring up and strengthening the local tourism industry through increased domestic spend.
How are the private and public sectors working together in terms of moving tourism forward?
Close collaboration with the private sector is central to our approach to developing the tourism market in Saudi Arabia. Part of the Saudi Tourism Authority’s mandate is to support the development of a tourism infrastructure, while empowering and enabling the private sector. As part of this mandate we are building the first national level visitor experience management unit in the industry, which will work closely with our private sector partners to accelerate innovation and drive visitor experience improvements across the entire tourism journey.
We are looking to attract travellers from China, South Korea, Malaysia and Japan who have a lot to discover from travelling to the home of Arabia
How has the Covid crisis altered your goals for the next ten years?
Tourism in Saudi Arabia has made significant progress in the past year since the launch of our first international tourist visa in September 2019. We are committed to and remain on track to achieve our Vision 2030 goals of 100 million visits by 2030 across both international and domestic.
Saudi Arabia is leveraging its strengths and ambitiously pursuing its targets to become a global tourism destination, despite the challenges presented by COVID-19.
What are the next steps in your tourism promotion plans?
We have ambitious plans to further drive the promotion of Saudi as a leading international tourism destination and the Asian market is a key priority for us. We are looking to attract travellers from China, South Korea, Malaysia and Japan who have a lot to discover from travelling to the home of Arabia and we are confident that Saudi’s natural beauty, authentic culture and rich adventure experiences will inspire Asian tourists looking to journey off the beaten track. To help achieve these goals, we are building representative teams in key markets to help drive our initiatives forward. We will also soon be launching our Winter Season activities, which will help bring new experiences and destinations to market. We are looking forward to welcoming our domestic, regional and international visitors to explore and discover our winter destinations.
Saudi Summer boosts tourism in 2020
The Saudi Tourism Authority has been putting a great deal of effort into re-kindling domestic tourism. Their “Saudi Summer” campaign encouraged Saudi nationals and residents to explore 12 unique destinations along the Red Sea coast. The campaign was hugely successful and was warmly received by travellers and domestic tourism companies alike. The campaign ran from June to September and generated a 33% increase in visitor spend recorded by hotels, restaurants and cultural activities compared to the same period in 2019. At peak period, some destinations saw hotel occupancy rates reach almost 100%.
Photo: Fahd Hamidaddin CEO and board member of the Saudi Tourism Authority