Saudi Arabia is a market we view with enormous excitement.
A cursory look at some figures from 2022 underline the huge potential here. With 93.5 million visitors, the country was not only the most visited Arab nation last year, but also the fastest-growing tourism destination in the world.
Not surprisingly, the hospitality sector is benefiting. Hotels are doing well and guests are spending more – in 2022, tourism expenditure in Saudi Arabia jumped by a massive 93% year-on-year to more than $49 billion, with occupancy rates improving by 17.2 percentage points. Crucially, revenue per available room (RevPAR) leapt by more than 67%.
What can explain this acceleration? From our perspective, the Saudi market is becoming more open and inclusive. The government has relaxed visa regulations to make it easier for people to visit, while Saudis themselves are embracing the hospitality sector and wanting to welcome more visitors to the Kingdom. The people here are passionate about showcasing the Saudi tapestry of culture to the world.
This momentum shows no sign of slowing either. In November, Saudi Arabia was officially announced as the host nation for the 2034 FIFA World Cup, an event which will catalyse yet more investment into the country’s tourism and hospitality sector over the coming decade.
Indeed, KSA is already the world’s biggest investor in tourism, committing $550 billion to new destinations in line with Vision 2030 and the bid to diversify its economy. More than $1 trillion of real estate and infrastructure projects, including 315,000 hotel rooms, are under development or in the pipeline.
In addition, a new national airline is set to begin operating in 2025 and will connect Saudi Arabia to more than 100 destinations by 2030. This will no doubt help achieve the key targets laid out in the KSA National Tourism Strategy 2030, the central objective of which is to ensure that tourism accounts for 10% of national GDP by the end of the decade.
Making Saudi Arabia a more inclusive travel market
To meet these prospective milestones, the sector recognises the need to become more inclusive. Saudi Arabia has a longstanding reputation for being a destination of luxury, offering excellence and a premium level of experience to its visitors.
While this is and will continue to be a strength, our mission is to unlock the enormous potential of KSA among a wider traveling audience – we strongly believe there is a demand for it as travellers’ preferences and behaviours change.
This can be achieved by increasing the midscale offering, both in Saudi and the wider Middle East region.
For instance, we have re-introduced our direct franchising and management rights for the Ramada by Wyndham brand in Saudi Arabia. This strategic move is an important step in expanding the brand in a high-potential market where there is a significant need for high-quality, midscale hotels.
Ramada by Wyndham is the primary vehicle through which we plan to expand our midscale offering in both the Middle East and Africa. Across the MEA region, our development pipeline includes 28 hotels, more than 60% of which fall the Ramada name.
What to expect from Wyndham Hotels & Resorts in Saudi Arabia
Reverting back to Saudi Arabia, our expansion plan is already well underway. Wyndham currently operates 14 hotels in the country and is actively developing the midscale accommodation pipeline to provide more inclusive and accessible options for travellers.
What does our midscale offering look like in practice? Let’s review at a couple of recent Ramada openings to get a flavour.
In Al Khobar, one of the key leisure and commercial destinations in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province, we have opened Ramada Encore by Wyndham Al Khobar Corniche. In a prime central location, this property is home to 79 well-appointed rooms spread across 12 floors, and features modern interiors that reflect Ramada’s fresh, approachable, and vibrant core attributes.
Ramada by Wyndham Riyadh King Fahd Road, opened in 2022, is also going well. With 189 rooms and suites, the hotel provides warm hospitality and comfort, and boasts a strong range of food and drink outlets alongside banqueting facilities, a pool, indoor sauna, business centre and meetings rooms, as well as valet parking. It is also strategically located, providing easy access to Riyadh’s business and commercial districts.
While we’re proud of these landmark ventures, there is equally more to come from us in Saudi Arabia over the coming months.
In October 2023, we announced the appointment of Mohamad Haj Hassan as our new Country Director. This is a significant move as it will provide a focal point and driving force for our expansion in KSA. Mohamad brings with him a wealth of industry expertise gained from a career spanning over 25 years in leadership positions in the Middle East and Africa’s hospitality sector. He is the perfect person to oversee the next chapter of our journey here and will be responsible for propelling Wyndham’s strategic growth in the Kingdom, as well as delivering operational excellence across our properties and supporting our owners.
As we progress into 2024 and beyond, this will include new properties and owners. We are constantly welcoming hotels and other industry stakeholders to play a part in our story, and Saudi Arabia is no exception.
Do you want to be part of the winning team in one of the world’s most exciting and fast-moving tourism markets? Contact us today!