Messi Saudi Tourism
Messi is expected to play in Saudi with his current Club, Inter Miami, against Al Nassr on February 1 and against Al Hilal on January 29. Image Credit: Supplied

Riyadh: In yet another star-powered tourism push, and in line with Saudi tourism brand ‘Saudi, Welcome To Arabia’, football star Lionel Messi kicked off the kingdom’s latest campaign.

The new campaign is launching across key target markets in Europe, India and China and is titled ‘Go Beyond What You Think’.

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Aimed at breaking misconceptions, the campaign invites those who know the destination and its vibrant culture to share their Saudi experiences on social media with the hashtag #ShareYourSaudi.

Messi Saudi Tourism
Messi is seen here with his wife, Antonella and their two children, visiting Arabian horses while in Saudi Arabia.

Messi is one of the many football stars who have signed on to promote tourism for the diverse nation, and the star and his family are regular visitors to the country. The latest campaign includes moments from Messi’s Saudi trip with his wife and two children.

The video starring Messi showcases the diversity of the landscape in the country – from the pristine waters of the Red Sea to the lush green mountains in Aseer, snow covered Tabuk, the coastal city of Jeddah and Riyadh, the bustling capital.

Messi, in the video, celebrates the Saudi women who have been trailblazers in their fields and leading Saudi’s cultural transformation such as the Saudi Women’s National football team, motorsport athlete Dania Akeel, DJ Cosmicat, and Rayyanah Barnawi, the first Saudi woman in space.

Messi holds a white falcon in Saudi Arabia
The video starring Messi showcases the diverse landscapes in the country.

Visas and stopovers

Saudi Arabia is seeking to attract more foreign visitors and holidaymakers, and has launched many initiatives to promote toursim. This includes opening up an electronic visit visa system to nationals of 63 countries and other eligible residence-visa holders such as GCC residents, residents in the US, the UK, the EU countries and holders of visit visas to the US, UK, and the Schengen area.

Earlier this year, the country launched a four-day or 96-hour free transit visa for visitors looking to perform Umrah, and visit Medina. Travellers can apply for the visa on the platforms of Saudia Airlines and Flynas. These visa holders are eligible for a complimentary one-night hotel stay during the stopover when booking with the national carrier, Saudia.

By the end of 2023, the country hopes to recieve 25 million foreign tourists.

Events and games ahead

Notably, the campaign is launching ahead of Messi’s imminent and much-anticipated Saudi return playing two matches with his current Club, Inter Miami, against Al Nassr on February 1 and against Al Hilal on January 29.

In celebration of Saudi’s activities and attractions, the Messi campaign highlights the Diriyah E-Prix, Riyadh Season’s theme park rides, AlUla’s hot air balloon flights and MDL Beast music events.

Ongoing events include Riyadh Season, Jeddah Season and Diriyah Season, with notable events coming up including the Saudi Cup (February 23-24), Saudi Arabian Grand Prix (March 7-9), AlUla Arts Festival (Feb 9-March 2), AlUla skies festival (April 10-27), among others