Saudi Arabia's ambitions for the tourism industry is to hit the 150 million visitor mark by end of this decade. With those kind of targets, the Kingdom is building up its hotel room capacity. Image Credit: Shutterstock

Dubai: Based on all available forecasts, Saudi Arabia could add more than 300,000 new hotel rooms by 2030.

At the ongoing Arabian Travel Market in Dubai, hotel operators and Saudi developers were doing their best to meet those forecasts – and even surpass them. Hyatt has just signed up for two new properties at Knowledge Economic City in Madinah, while others are lining up with their own plans and designs.

Then there is the US hotel company BWH that has set targets on having as many as 40 hotels up and running in Saudi Arabia by the end of 2028, whether through a mix of management contracts or franchise deals.

“There is still plenty of room for the new Saudi hotel inventory to find their spots,” said Wytze van den Berg, Vice-President for the EMEA territory at BWH Hotels, whose brands include Best Western, SureStay and WorldHotels. Currently, there are nine BWH hotels operating in Saudi Arabia.

“We find there is still quite good demand for hotels especially in the western parts of the country. Riyadh continues to perform well as a destination, and we see that continuing given the government spending that’s backing it up.”

Not just about giga-projects

Indeed, the demand for new hotel projects in Saudi Arabia is going granular. While quite a bit of attention continues to be pulled in by the prestige ‘giga-projects’ such as NEOM, there is much happening outside of those too. Because with Saudi Arabia’s stated ambitions to fast-track its way to be a full-scale tourism destination, each of its major cities and destinations need new capacity.

BWH Hotels has just signed up for three hotel towers (sharing the same podium) in Mecca, its first in the Holy City. “The opening will likely be in the third quarter of 2025, and we will have three separate brands take care of the hotels,” said van den Berg. “Each will have 150 keys.

“As I said, there is still significant growth possibilities for the Saudi hotel industry.”

Grand strategy to hit 150 million tourists

Also at the ATM, the new Saudi airline Riyadh Air and the Kingdom’s tourism authority to scale up the ‘travel experience for passengers to and from Saudi Arabia’.

With Riyadh Air to launch services next year and with plans to fly to over 100 countries by 2030, it will work with Saudi Tourism Authority on ‘various initiatives to enhance the level of service for tourists’.

“Increasing Saudi’s connectivity with the world is a key pillar of our tourism strategy,” said Fhad Hamidaddin, the STA’s CEO. “And ensure we sustain our rapid growth and meet our new ambitious target of 150 million visits by 2030.

“This partnership with Riyadh Air will support our goals and ensure more visitors can travel to experience the cool mountains, pristine waters and dynamic cities that make Saudi a great year-round destination.

“We are currently connected to over 180 destinations and are aiming to triple annual passenger traffic to 330 million by 2030 and this new agreement will help turbocharge these efforts.”

What the new alliance will target
● Riyadh Air and Saudi Tourism Authority will jointly announce new routes and destinations to ‘raise global awareness’ among travelers.

● They will promote the Kingdom along with any new destinations with an ‘aligned strategy’ to attract and inform potential visitors.

● Riyadh Air is expected to contribute to KSA’s non-oil GDP growth by $20 billion while ‘directly and indirectly’ creating over 200,000 new jobs.