Bollywood, cricket to draw Indian visitors to Saudi Arabia, says Alhasan Ali Aldabbagh

Saudi Tourism Authority to heavily invest in marketing and branding campaigns for India.

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia holds 200,000 years of largely unexplored human history. With its dramatic rock formations, sandstone outcrops, and ancient monuments, the destination has been a big draw for the high-spending Indian luxury traveller. From stargazing, ziplining, and Red Sea diving to helicopter rides and desert drives, Saudi Arabia offers a memorable experience that’s truly world-class.

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has set an ambitious target to attract 100 million visitors annually by 2030. “A big chunk of that will be from India. We are really counting on the Indian market,” says Alhasan Ali Aldabbagh, Chief Markets Officer, Asia Pacific, Saudi Tourism Authority.

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Alhasan Ali Aldabbagh, Chief Markets Officer, Asia Pacific, Saudi Tourism Authority

The Saudi Tourism Authority (STA) is heavily investing in marketing and branding campaigns. Argentinian soccer legend Lionel Messi was recently chosen as STA’s brand ambassador. As part of its India-centric campaign, STA is planning to rope in Bollywood A-listers to promote the destination.

“We are investing a lot in above the line ad campaigns. As part of our global marketing strategy, India is one of the key markets that we are activating. Very recently, we signed up Messi as our Saudi brand ambassador. Now, we intend to work closely with Bollywood. We are also planning to host some friendly cricket matches in Saudi Arabia because we know these are important to our Indian visitors,” he says.

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Renowned for its traditional mud-brick architecture, Diriyah is home to revitalized Al Bujairi, a pedestrianized maze of winding alleyways with cafes and craft shops.

In an effort to make Saudi Arabia one of the most preferred destinations for Indian weddings, STA is facilitating wedding venues as per Indian requisites.

“Weddings are a big part of our Indian strategy. We know that Indians like to travel for weddings in big groups of two hundred to three hundred. We are using this demand to our advantage and creating a few venues in Saudi that would be perfect for weddings,” he says.

On working with the travel trade, Ali Aldabbagh says that Saudi is creating a healthy network that will enable Indian travel businesses to partner with stakeholders in Saudi Arabia to drive and develop tourism business.

“We are doing all the normal stuff and beyond. We are working closely with all of travel trade, be it tour operators or travel agents, destination management companies or hotels to really help create the right business plans for Saudi Arabia. We are working closely with several trade partners in India to create the right incentives for them. We are also helping them create the right packages for Saudi Arabia. We are enabling interactions with local stakeholders in Saudi Arabia like putting them in touch with the suppliers, hotels and DMCs. So yes, we are investing a lot in trade,” he says.

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AlUla is a place of extraordinary human and natural heritage.

STA recently signed 17 MoUs with strategic partners.

“We will be investing a lot in the marketing, and we have high ambitions for India. Our goal for India is to take 20% of the total outbound market coming to Saudi Arabia. We think that we have the right formula for this. We have amazing offerings for Indian visitors who are looking for culture and heritage. We also have great destinations for those keen on exploring ancient historical sites which weave rich stories. We have destinations that are ideal for sports and adventure as well,” he says.

With more luxury hotel openings in Saudi Arabia, travel curators can also craft exclusive packages for upscale Indian travellers.

“We have a vast number of offerings that are well suited for the luxury traveller. We have AlUla that provides exclusive experience. We have unique hotels that are operational today, such as the Habitas. By October, we will have properties like the Banyan Tree and Aman. Also in the pipeline are properties like St Regis and Rosewood. We also have the cruise line that is catering to the luxury market,” says Ali Aldabbagh.

Read more:

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10 ways to explore AlUla, the ‘new’ old city in Saudi Arabia

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