During this period, the sector could double employment and create over 1.4 million jobs. Image Credit: Gulf News Archives

Saudi Arabia’s tourism sector is expected to grow at an average of 11 per cent annually for the next decade, the fastest in the Middle East, a global travel body said on Monday.

By 2032, the sector will contribute SAR 635 billion to the Kingdom’s GDP, a 17.1 per cent share in the total economy, the World Travel & Tourism Council said in its Economic Impact Report.

During this period, the sector could double employment and create over 1.4 million jobs, with the total headcount reaching three million by 2032, the report added.

“Throughout these difficult times for our sector, the Saudi Arabia government has recognised the importance of travel and tourism, and has led the world in its recovery. Through his leadership, travel and tourism will become a driving force of the Saudi Arabian economy and will surpass the goals set out in its Vision 2030 blueprint,” said Julia Simpson, WTTC President & CEO.

The projections for both employment and the sector’s contribution to the Kingdom’s economy surpass the goals set out by the government’s Vision 2030 strategic framework, the report said.

By 2023, the country’s travel and tourism sector’s contribution to the national economy could surpass pre-pandemic levels, when it is projected to rise 2 per cent above 2019 levels, to reach nearly SAR 297 billion.

Employment in the sector could also exceed 2019 levels by 14.1 per cent, creating more than 223,000 additional jobs, touching more than 1.8 million by the end of next year.

By the end of this year, the sector’s contribution to GDP is expected to grow 15.2 per cent to nearly SAR 223 billion, amounting to 7.2 per cent of the total economic GDP, while employment in the sector is set to grow by 16.1 per cent to reach more than 1.5 million jobs.

According to the global tourism body, the Kingdom, due to host WTTC’s 22nd Global Summit in Riyadh from November 28 to December 1 this year, is witnessing a faster than average recovery following the government’s commitment to the travel and tourism sector, ensuring it remained at the forefront of the global agenda.

Before the pandemic, travel and tourism contributed 9.7 per cent (SAR 291.6 billion) to the Kingdom’s GDP in 2019, falling to 6.6 per cent (SAR 190.6 billion) in 2020.