In September 2019, Saudi Arabia inaugurated tourist visas just months before the coronavirus pandemic decimated the industry globally. An uptick in domestic travel in 2020 and 2021 -- authorities tallied a record 64 million "domestic visits" last year -- helped save the nascent Saudi tourism sector from collapse, and now authorities want to seize more of the international market, Saudi Minister of Tourism Ahmed Al Khateeb, said in an interview.
Saudi Arabia has raised eyebrows with its goal of attracting 100 million visitors by 2030, an element of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's Vision 2030 reform agenda intended to diversify the oil-dependent economy and open up to the world.
One high-profile feature of the tourism push is the launch of several giga projects spearheaded by Prince Mohammed, including the $500 billion smart city NEOM, in the Tabuk Province of northwestern Saudi Arabia, and Diriyah, the seat of the first Saudi state which is being redeveloped as a heritage and entertainment destination.
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