Catering to this potential segment, Hyatt Hotels announced the opening of three new Hyatt hotels opening in close proximity to Al Masjid Al-Haram or the Sacred Mosque, Mount Arafat, Muzdalifah, and Mina.
Thierry Bertin, vice president of world wide sales for Hyatt International – South West Asia said: “Now, Saudi holidaymakers head to key destinations for longer holidays: Istanbul, Paris and London. For shorter periods, it’s Dubai, and Kuala Lumpur. They are all very ‘Gulf-friendly’.”
In the first quarter of 2012 alone, 2.9 million foreign tourists visited the country, spending nearly US$1.9 billion according to a report released by the Tourism Information and Research Centre. Inbound tourists represent about 77% of total tourists, with 23% spending only one night in the country.
Kuwait, Bahrain, UAE, Qatar and Egypt registered as the top five countries sending tourists to Saudi Arabia during Q1, with domestic tourists also an important contributor to tourism receipts.
“Hajj is definitely the busiest time of year for tourism in the Kingdom, but many regionally-based Muslims still visit the holy sites to pray as many as three times a year,” added Bertin.
With the busiest time of year ahead for religious travel to Saudi Arabia, tourism in the Kingdom is in the spotlight. According to the Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia, more than 1.8 million foreign pilgrims travelled to Hajj in 2011, with all evidence pointing to continued increase over the next few years.
But outbound tourism in Saudi is also seeing a surge, with 74% of Saudi nationals planning to travel every year – a higher percentage among GCC and Arab states.