India sees surge in tourist bookings for Saudi Arabia
India’s travel industry has observed a jump in the number of tourists going to Saudi Arabia after the Kingdom’s recent promotional campaigns to attract 2 million Indian visitors by the year’s end.
In the past two years, India has emerged as Saudi Arabia’s key tourism source market.
The Saudi Tourism Authority expects it to become the largest one in the next few years.
Throughout February, the STA held a series of events across India, showcasing the Kingdom’s historical sights and futuristic projects. It also signed a partnership agreement with the Indian Premier League — the world’s most-watched T20 cricket franchise — to tap into a strong sports fanbase for promotion.
The efforts have already yielded results, according to data from MakeMyTrip, the largest Indian online travel company.
“The search indices for Saudi Arabia reflect an upward trend, growing by 20 percent quarter-on-quarter during the January-March 2023 quarter compared to October-December 2022,” Raj Rishi Singh, the company’s chief business officer, told Arab News.
“The recent campaigns have started to deliver the desired impact.”
Travelers came mostly from India’s metropolitan areas such as Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Bangalore and other large cities, and their top three destinations in the Kingdom were Jeddah, Riyadh and Dammam.
To further increase the numbers, Saudi tourism officials are concentrating their efforts on building relations with Indian industry stakeholders and are investing in marketing and branding campaigns that specifically target the Indian market.
“Our aim is to attract over 2 million visits from Indian tourists by the end of this year, and we plan to utilize the popularity of Bollywood, football, and cricket icons to draw visitors to Saudi Arabia,” Alhasan Al-Dabbagh, the STA’s chief for Asia Pacific, told Arab News.
“With immense potential, we hope to see India become a leading source market by 2030. This will play a vital role in achieving the goal of attracting 100 million global visits by the same year.”
The Travel Agents Association of India, which, with 2,500 members, is one of the largest industry groups in the country, has signed a cooperation agreement with the STA to support the goal.
TAAI President Jyoti Mayal said that with heavy investment in tourism infrastructure and with its flagship initiatives such as the Red Sea Project, NEOM, Qiddiya, the Kingdom has created space for all kinds of visitors, from leisure and family tourists to business and conference ones.
“Saudi branding is now visible all over India, from cricket grounds to social media. All this is creating huge interest to explore the untraveled destination,” Mayal told Arab News.
“The emphasis is on promoting and capitalizing on its extensive historic and geological attractions and also showcasing technology and modernization.”