In 2022, the tourism sector witnessed some compelling changes, notably for Saudi Arabia. As per the recent data, India emerged as one of the top sources of inbound tourists to the Kingdom, solidifying its importance in the international tourism landscape.
Out of the total 16.6 million tourists Saudi Arabia welcomed in 2022, India accounted for 1.1 million, making up 6.6% of the total arrivals. While countries like Kuwait and Bahrain led the chart with 1.9 million (11.4%) and 2.2 million (13.3%) tourists respectively, the significance of Indian tourists cannot be sidelined. Considering the vast Muslim population in India, many of whom undertake the Hajj and Umrah pilgrimages, India plays a pivotal role in the religious tourism segment for Saudi Arabia.
Moreover, in the broader context, Saudi Arabia stood as the second most preferred destination for Indian tourists in 2022, trailing just behind the UAE. A staggering 12% of the 21 million Indian nationals who traveled abroad in 2022 chose Saudi Arabia as their destination.
Under the Vision 2030 initiative, Saudi Arabia has laid out grand ambitions for its tourism sector. The nation aims to reach a whopping 100 million visits, hosting over 37 million Hajj and Umrah visitors. This vision doesn't just revolve around attracting foreign visitors but also extends to harnessing the power of the private sector, attracting foreign direct investments in tourism, and creating around 1.6 million job opportunities. By 2030, Saudi Arabia envisages the tourism sector to contribute 10% of its GDP.
Given these ambitions, the importance of a country like India, with its sizable population and religious ties to the Islamic pilgrimages, cannot be stressed enough. The vast number of potential pilgrims and travelers from India can be instrumental in helping Saudi Arabia reach its Vision 2030 targets.
India's significant contribution to Saudi Arabia's tourism influx, particularly in the religious tourism segment, is a testament to the cultural and spiritual ties shared by the two nations. As Saudi Arabia works diligently towards its Vision 2030 goals, fostering and nurturing this connection with India will be paramount. The mutual benefits are clear: while Saudi gains in tourism numbers and economic contributions, Indian pilgrims and tourists get to experience the rich heritage, culture, and spiritual ambiance of the Kingdom.