Mubasher: The UAE, Egypt, Bahrain, and Qatar have topped the MENA region’s list of destinations of interest for Saudi international travellers since Saudi Arabia reopened its borders a month ago, given their proximity and familiarity, a recent study by Almosafer unveiled.
Morocco has also emerged as a trending destination for Saudis, who are increasingly prioritising quarantine-free and safe destinations. Besides the Maldives, Ukraine has entered the top 20 list as "one of Europe’s least explored" destinations, according to Almosafer.
Since the resumption of international travel from the Kingdom on 17 May, Almosafer has recovered 76% of total bookings until 16 June this year compared to the same time in 2019. The study expected this percentage to grow to exceed pre-pandemic booking volume by the fourth quarter (Q4) of 2021.
Earlier this year, Almosafer presented a study showing that more than 80% of Saudi respondents were planning to travel internationally within the first six months of border opening.
Domestic tourism remained strong due to the growing appeal of local destinations amongst Saudi nationals. Saudi Arabia has a wider agenda to endorse the tourism sector’s contribution to the national economy with several innovative product launches planned over the coming months.
Jeddah, Riyadh, Al Khobar, and Dammam were among the top local destinations in Saudi Arabia, while Al Jubail, Abha, and Jizan were the new trending destinations that gained popularity over the past year.
In addition to a clear inclination towards travelling in smaller groups or pairs, Saudis tend to go on shorter trips abroad, yet spending 5% more per-booking to achieve higher levels of comfort, convenience, and better social distancing options. The study showed a 16% increase in business class and a 14% rise in first-class bookings.
Travellers' booking window has declined 30%, while Saudis are planning their trips less far ahead as they are making travel decisions based on current situations.
“Due to the various travel restrictions in place worldwide, it was interesting to see the changes in the top 20 destinations mix which saw a few new emerging destinations that weren’t on Saudi nationals’ travel lists before such as Greece, Bosnia, and Albania,” EVP at Almosafer, Muzzammil Ahussain, commented.
A recent report said that Saudi Arabian tourism remained buoyant in 2020 and Q1-21, backed by domestic market strength.
Last month, the Kingdom established the Department of Maritime Activities to enhance the tourism sector in line with Saudi Arabia's Vision 2030.