Dubai: As Saudi Arabia resumes international flights, travellers are heading to familiar destinations like Dubai, Bahrain, and Egypt, according to a top official at Seera Group, a major player in the Kingdom's tourism space.
Seera saw a "dramatic" increase in searches, said Muzzammil Hussain, Executive Vice-President. "People were interested in understanding what's out there (like) new flight schedules, new hotel prices - primarily in traditional markets like Dubai, Bahrain and Egypt, but also in some new up and coming destinations such as Georgia, Bosnia, and Maldives."
Hussain said that travelers were still nervous about flying to destinations in Europe, but added that there was growing interest for Greece and Morocco.
Inbound traffic limited
Despite the opening up of Saudi Arabia’s borders, few people will be visiting the country - for now. Tourists have shown interest, but current COVID-19 restrictions mean only vaccinated passengers from select countries can enter. "At the same time, we've seen a lot of interest for religious tourism - during Ramadan, we got a lot of bookings from Kuwait and Qatar to Mecca, so that will continue," said Hussain. "I think the overall inbound (tourism) will grow towards the end of the year."
AlUla is on the map
AlUla, which is home to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Hegra, is seeing a lot of interest from international travellers. There is "significant demand for AlUla both from domestic and international people like from Russia, China and Europe," said Hussain.
"AlUla is investing heavily in building out its overall masterplan, and increasing the amount of hotels and rooms available. Right now, there's a limited supply, but as that opens up, we'll see a significant boost."
There was "significant" amount of interest for the Expo event before the pandemic. "Now, Expo is coming back with its marketing efforts, we expect interest (to grow)," said Hussain. "We're waiting for information about the regulations and the kind of events that will happen, but I think there'll be a continued interest."
He added that people were reluctant to book in advance given that the travel situation could change any time.