Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Tourism Ahmed bin Aqeel Al Khateeb has announced a three-year Digital Tourism Strategy, as the next step in the Kingdom’s continued reform of the sector.
The Ministry of Tourism is pioneering nine innovative programs consisting of 31 core initiatives by 2025 – positively impacting residents, visitors, investors and the public and private sectors. These programs will accelerate the kingdom’s National Tourism Strategy and Vision 2030 targets, including 100 million new visits and tourism’s 10 percent GDP contribution.
Al Khateeb said: “The Digital Tourism Strategy will help us to redesign tourism in the Kingdom and achieve our ambitious Vision 2030 objectives of making Saudi Arabia a world-leading tourist destination. The Kingdom’s execution of this strategy over the next three years will inspire the tourism sector globally.”
Application of the Strategy aims to provide tourists and stakeholders with a more seamless experience, that enables a thriving tourism sector. The strategy focuses on a number of areas:
-Seamless Travel: Providing digital solutions to simplify travel procedures
-Ease of Doing Business: Launching a unified platform to connect tourism service providers and applications
-Innovation: Creating an experimental environment that will allow technology innovators to test new digital tourism solutions
-Digital Travel: Supporting tourism related extended reality applications (e.g. virtual or augmented reality)
-Encouraging Sustainability: Rewarding tourists for eco-friendly behaviours
-Informed Decision Making: Building solutions that gather data and provide analytics for the tourism sector
-Skilled Digital Workforce: Creating a generation of tourism professionals and entrepreneurs
-Investor Attraction: Establish & engage a network of tourism investors through digital platforms
To achieve this, the strategy will deliver programs that promote a Kingdom-wide culture of innovation and future-proof regulations. It will boost workforce skills to strengthen the labour market and attract global innovators by providing a safe and supportive environment to explore and experiment their work. A dedicated program will target upskilling and reskilling the tourism workforce to increase Saudi Arabia’s tourism sector employability rate and enable the next generation of entrepreneurs, he said.
The Ministry of Tourism will also pioneer new digital business models to increase market demand for service providers. The new models will include disruptive regulations for smart hotels and streamlined methods of digital travel, creating a frictionless seamless travel experience for tourists, businesses, and governments.
A smart ecosystem will be developed to support and enable the sector’s digital transformation, particularly for stakeholders. This will feature an interconnected, inclusive platform to answer the needs of Ministry of Tourism stakeholders, with customer centricity at the heart of its services. By adopting new technologies, the Ministry will enable informed decision-making, maximising the value of data and creating opportunities to matchmake investors.
The strategy will also encourage the creation of new service offerings and start-ups by establishing a tourism marketplace. The marketplace will leverage AI and data to attract investors, accelerate destination readiness and showcase investment opportunities.
Above all, the strategy will initiate ministry-wide programs to create an agile and resilient organization that supports the sector’s digital transformation and fosters a culture of innovation. In line with this, the Ministry of Tourism will lead the development of a Global Digital Tourism Index to drive competitiveness within the global sector.
Al Khateeb added: “We must embrace the opportunities that the digital era presents us. We are welcoming the most innovative, disruptive minds in the world, to create better digital tourism regulations. We want travelers and investors to have certainty that smart regulations are being adopted across the sector.
“Saudi Arabia will continue to pioneer and lead these efforts at a national and global scale, ultimately creating more jobs, more prosperity and bringing more visitors into the Kingdom.”
The strategy was built in consultation with Digital Government Authority, the National Digital Transformation Unit, and a Global Advisory Board of 22 subject matter experts in digital transformation and tourism.
Throughout the strategy’s development, the Ministry aligned with entities across the tourism ecosystem, including the Saudi Tourism Authority and the Tourism Development Fund. The strategy has been endorsed by the UNWTO, World Bank and digital partners such as Microsoft and CISCO.
This announcement builds on the Ministry’s strong track record of achievements. Last year, the Ministry of Tourism launched an effort to attract 100,000 Saudis into the sector through the Your Future in Tourism programme. In addition, the Ministry is working with the UN World Tourism Organization to establish a Tourism Academy to train young people entering the sector workforce. The Ministry of Tourism has also developed a series of 31 new standards to enhance the quality of the Kingdom’s tourism training.
Additionally, the Ministry’s tourism training and education e-portal was activated earlier this year, with registrations exceeding 226,000. The platform has assisted with the training and upskilling of more than 110,000 employees and jobseekers so far. The Saudi tourism ecosystem has also expanded its global presence and recognition, winning 28 global awards, and the Saudi Tourism Authority has also established 12 international offices across seven key markets, the ministry said.