Saudi Arabia stretches its wings

The Saudi Tourism Authority engages and inspires the international tourism ecosystem at ITB India 2021

As the Official Partner Country of ITB India 2021, Saudi Tourism Authority is showcasing a wide array of tourism offerings and destination highlights as well as the exciting new developments on the horizon.

Saudi initially opened its borders in September 2019, rapidly establishing itself as the fastest growing tourism destination in the world, according to the World Travel and Tourism Council. With this in mind, Saudi Tourism Authority (STA) has continued to invest, to drive awareness about the destination to an international audience for when borders reopen and travel safely resumes.

To this end, a major international promotional campaign was launched in January, in different source markets around the globe. The integrated broadcast, out of home and digital campaign ran across 28 countries in 13 languages, bringing to life Saudi’s natural beauty, great diversity and rich in culture and heritage.

Saudi is a new destination on the global tourism stage and for Saudi Tourism Authority (STA), the mandate is to help achieve the ambitious vision of 100 million visitors from the domestic, regional and international markets. With 15 priority markets identified spanning 30 countries around the world, it has been critical for STA to set up the infrastructure to support this growth.

The tourism authority is engaging the private sector, creating compelling visitor experiences and building awareness of Saudi as a world class destination for culture, heritage, adventure and unparalleled hospitality – “the true home of Arabia”.

Whatever one’s pleasure, this list of Saudi’s five must-visit destinations offers a journey that has never been imagined… until today.

AlUla

AlUla (see photo – top of page) is a stunning destination embracing 200,000 years of human history, breath-taking natural rock formations, iconic modern architecture and Hegra, one of the most recognisable images of Saudi. Visitors can explore more than 100 monolithic rock-cut tombs carved by the Nabateaen civilisation, or read the history of the region, recorded in ancient inscriptions on the surrounding cliffs. The mirror-clad Maraya Concert Hall is one of the world’s “most Instagrammable buildings”.

Diriyah

The original home where the Saudi Royal Family rose to prominence lies almost in the center of The Kingdom as one of the most significant cultural heritage sites in the country. At the heart of the site is At-Turaif, the jewel of the Kingdom, and today a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Throughout its beautiful typography and winding valleys and amid the mud brick former palaces of Salwa, Saad Al Saud and Al Nasser, a myriad of treasures await discovery. A recent ambitious restoration project has ensured that Diriyah and its surrounds are preserved and this historic legacy safeguarded for future generations. It has been sensitively restored and transformed into an open-air museum, as part of the wider Diriyah development. The distinctive Najdi architectural style is still evident, with remnants of the original walls still standing strong. Upon completion, the development will include a mosque, several cultural institutes, and a traditional market, where visitors can glimpse back in time at traditional life in Saudi Arabia. 

(Diriyah)

Jeddah

The ancient centre of Jeddah, the “Bride of the Red Sea”, was built in the 7th century as a gateway for pilgrims making their way to Makkah. The refurbished Makkah Gate today serves as the entrance to an intriguing and cosmopolitan blend of ancient and modern. Visitors can browse through the colourful Souq Al Alawi, Saudi’s largest souq, which fills the narrow alleyways with the scent of exotic spices and a kaleidoscope of colourful wares. Heritage houses nestle among the intricately designed 500-year-old buildings, built using coral from the Red Sea. One can finish one’s day with a sumptuous meal of fresh seafood looking out over the waters of the Red Sea. An experience to delight all the senses.

(Jeddah Old City Buildings and Streets, Saudi Arabia)

Abha

Located at the southern end of the Red Sea coast, Abha is the culturally rich capital of the Asir region and a great base for exploring this mountainous part of Arabia. The city has a wealth of delights to discover, known for its heritage, cuisine, and stunning landscapes. Acquaint yourself with the beautiful city by taking a stroll through its landmark sites, whether it’s a trip to a museum, shopping in vibrant traditional markets, or roaming historic neighborhoods like Al Nasb and Al Basta. For the thrill-seekers, the juniper-covered Al Soudah, at 3,000 meters, is the unofficial adventure capital of Saudi.

The Red Sea

The Saudi Red Sea is a natural treasure house of thriving coral reefs and abundant marine life. Extending 1,700km from the Gulf of Aqaba in the north to the Farasan Islands in the south, the eastern reaches of the Red Sea are a stunning destination for divers, snorkelers and other ocean enthusiasts. Whether it’s a scintillating sunset by the beach, exploring the vibrant reefs or diving on one of the coast’s enigmatic shipwrecks, the Red Sea is a destination like no other in the world. The visitor is immersed in unforgettable natural beauty.

Photo – top of page: AlUla, Saudi Arabia