Many new hotels are being constructed. Many new hotels are being constructed.

By all accounts, the hospitality and tourism sector in Saudi Arabia is on an upward trajectory, with a slew of new hotels and tourism initiatives, including the country’s General Entertainment Authority (GEA) revealing plans for Saudi Arabia to become an entertainment destination.

Speaking to Hotelier Middle East, Christopher Hewett, director, TRI Consulting, said that tourism in Saudi Arabia is on “an overall evolution.  It is a new page for Saudi Arabia.”

Hewett explained how the Saudi Arabia of today is a totally new environment. “Women can drive, there is cinema, sporting events, concerts by world class stars, not to mention investments in tourism,” he said.

Another area that is witnessing growth is in the country’s hotel sector. Real estate services provider Savills predicts continued growth in the hotel sector across the Saudi Arabia that will cater to the estimated 22.1 million international visitors by 2025.

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Its newly released ‘Saudi Arabia Hotel Sector Report’ revealed that there was a 13% increase in number of hotel rooms during 2017 and an extra 48,000 being constructed.

The report also highlighted that three demand pools are fuelling the tourism growth in Saudi Arabia - leisure, pilgrim and corporate visitors. According to the most recent annual statistics, travel and tourism accounts for 9.4% of Saudi Arabia’s total GDP, with traveller expenditure growing by 10.5% annually (US $14.8bn).

The country is working on diversifying its economy in line with Vision 2030, and international arrivals are due to increase on average by 4% per annum according to the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), reaching figures of 22.1 million by 2025.

Savills' head of Saudi Arabia David O’Hara said in a statement: "The diversification of Saudi Arabia’s economy has provided a boost for employment and its GDP outlook. Major hotel groups are driving construction trends across the country as they aim to meet the demands of an ever-increasing number of domestic tourists and international visitors. We think this trend is likely to continue for many years ahead, as both private and public capital is invested into the tourist infrastructure."

Hewett said that many of Saudi Arabia’s large population travel outside the country for tourism and entertainment purposes. He said that many of the new initiatives in the country are looking to target the domestic market.

Saudi Arabia’s General Entertainment Authority (GEA) revealed in a press conference plans for the country to become an entertainment destination with a number of projects and events lined up for 2019, including live performances, international exhibitions, Ramadan competitions, e-gaming events, and even Madame Tussauds wax museum.

The GEA also revealed its new brand identity, and launched its new event platform 'Enjoy Saudi', which showcases all event information across the country.

The organisation signed MoUs with international and local private entertainment companies to begin activities in the Kingdom. These companies include Balich from Italy, Avex from Japan, Broadway Entertainment, the Middle Eastern 1001 Inventions, and many others.

Hewett pointed out that life in the country is getting better for many. "The country is turning a new page," he said.