In order to decipher Saudi Arabia’s tourism offerings, the Saudi Tourism Authority (STA) organised ‘Journeys in Arabia’ an exclusive online event, curated especially for travel trade partners around the globe. The India edition of ‘Journeys in Arabia’ webinar took place on February 17.
Speaking at the launch webinar, Fahd Hamidaddin, CEO, STA, said that the travel industry is rapidly changing, especially against the backdrop of the Covid-19 pandemic. “Travellers are thinking how to travel. They are thinking of visiting safe and lesser-known destinations,” pointed out Hamidaddin.
Praising India, he said that India has set the standard of destination marketing. “Once travel resumes, India will emerge as one of the top source markets in the world,” he said. Hamidaddin stated that the pandemic has taught one to become agile and responsive. He emphasised that digital integration is a crucial requirement to prosper. “Technology companies understand the importance of digital integration. They also understand that effective use of data can make difference to the bottomline of a company. Technology companies use data for profit and we have to use (data) for progress,” exhorted Hamidaddin.
STA is a building a community to position Saudi as a unique tourism destination
He also said that STA is building a community dedicated to positioning Saudi as a unique tourism destination. “We have to show travellers Saudi is a country of natural beauty, great diversity, hidden treasures, iconic architecture, etc.,” he said.
Hamidaddin strongly believes that with support from everyone they will create a place for the Kingdom in the hearts and minds of travellers.
The web event saw an enchanting discussion between Abdullah Al Dakhil, International Communication Manager, STA and celebrated journalist Vir Sanghvi.
This was followed by a discussion between prominent leaders of the travel industry about the opportunities for tourism in Saudi Arabia. Sheema Vohra, MD, Sartha Global Marketing, moderated the session. Initiating the discussion, Haitham Matter, CCO, STA, said that they have identified India as one of the top source markets for Saudi. “Leisure is the new segment that we are targeting. The E-visa for Indians has been requested directly to the office of His Royal Highness in order to include India within the list of 49 countries. We are waiting for the approval,” he said.
Madhavan Menon, CMD, Thomas Cook India, said that Indians, especially the online consumers and millennials, are late planners and constantly seek new destinations within close proximity to India. “Effective promotion will be a game changer for a new destination like Saudi Arabia,” Menon pointed out.
Rakshit Desai, MD-India, FCM, felt that key considerations for corporate and leisure segments are awareness and attractiveness. “While the former can be achieved through communication and information dissemination, and the latter can be achieved through on-ground experience while visiting there,” he said.
Deep Kalra, Founder & Group Executive Chairman, MakeMyTrip, expressed his happiness with the fact that Saudi is focusing on adventure and sports tourism. “I am also happy to know that Formula one is coming to Saudi. Adventure and sports segments have huge potential. However, Wine & dine is an area Saudi has to focus on to attract FIT travellers,” exhorted Kalra.
Benazir Nazar, CEO, Akbar Travels, sighted an interesting observation. “So far, as long as Saudi is concerned, we were dealing with the pilgrimage sector but of late we are getting enquiries of destination weddings. It’s a big shift,” she said. She also suggested that the Umrah segment has huge potential. “It is time to develop an itinerary for Umrah segment post-pilgrimage,” suggested Nazar.
Vohra, in her concluding remarks, thanked everyone for spending their valuable time to join the web-discussion. “Our industry looks forward to working with STA as it comes in India,” she said.