Saudi Arabia has embarked on an ambitious program to boost inbound tourism and considers India a key market, said Saudi Tourism Board CEO Fahd Hamidaddin. Hamidaddin, who has been the chief of investment, strategy and tourism marketing for the Saudi Ministry of Tourism, spoke on the sidelines of the World Travel and Tourism Council Global Summit in Manila.
“We went on a road trip to India, met a lot of travel agents there and have some promising partnerships. Now, our focus is on air carriers. We want to develop routes from India and grow these routes. We want to promote the destinations with our trade partners from India,” Hamidaddin said.
“I am expecting a lot (of bilateral agreements) to be signed this year. Because we feel India is definitely a key market for Saudi. The government is also addressing the issue of accessibility with visas and air connectivity for leisure, business and religious travel,” said Hamidaddin, who is in charge of the Visit Saudi destination brand.
He also referred to efforts to make Umrah more accessible and less expensive for travellers from the Muslim world.
“We found out that some brokers are marking up the cost of getting to Saudi for Umrah (pilgrimage made by Muslims to Mecca), and that should not happen,” he said.
“Historically, Saudi Arabia has dedicated a certain number for Umrah to dedicated travel agents,” Hamidaddin said. “Now, we are going to open up for all the travel industry, so that any travel agent can offer Umrah packages,” he said.
Indian travellers are very well acquainted with the Middle East, he said.
“There are people who come to Saudi historically, the Muslims. We are trying to make it a lot easier as far as access is concerned. The message is that we welcome everyone,” he added.
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