Elaf Group, a leader in Saudi Arabia's travel and tourism industry, is highly optimistic about the growth in the country's hospitality sector as the government works toward expanding its non-oil economy.
The hospitality industry is one of the major pillars of Saudi Arabia’s non-oil economy that continues to expand at a steady pace. It is also a reflection of the country’s infrastructure, which facilitates a comfortable stay for tourists. There have been 155 new hotels inaugurated between 2014 and 2015, and the sector itself has registered an annual growth of 8.5 percent. The tourism sector, with the support of the hospitality industry, contributed 5.4 percent to the non-oil gross domestic product in 2015 and is expected to rise to 5.7 percent by 2020.
“The Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA) has an ambitious strategy to host 45.3 million tourists each year by 2020, compared to 14 million in 2013,” Elaf Group CEO Ziyad Bin Mahfouz told Gulf News Journal recently. “This, in my opinion, is one of the major reasons to be optimistic for the KSA’s hospitality sector, which will add 50,000 rooms and 74,000 new furnished apartments to serve the growing number of tourists from all around the world."
While Saudi Arabia’s hospitality industry is gaining tremendous momentum, the holy cities of Makkah and Madinah have recorded rapid and remarkable growth. Some of the biggest developments planned in the country will be undertaken in the two cities. Moreover, between 2014 and 2025, Makkah is expected to witness a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 4 percent to reach $4.26 million and Madinah will have a CAGR of 3 percent to touch $2.30 million.
Unlike other Middle Eastern countries, Saudi Arabia focuses mainly on tourism for religious purposes as well as economic growth. It attracts pilgrims from all over the world, with more than 15 million Muslims visiting Makkah annually and several million during the season of Hajj. Even though it focuses on religious tourism, Saudi Arabia has positioned itself as a cosmopolitan country in the Muslim world with excellent facilities and infrastructure.
“The boom in the KSA’s tourism and hospitality sector is visible all across the country even though it may not be as uniform as in some cities such as Makkah and Madinah, which have recorded more growth than other parts,” Mahfouz said. “However, the promising trend is reflected in the development of world-class infrastructure and availability of high-end services for making travel and stay easier and more comfortable to visitors. These positive changes are vital in encouraging tourists to make plans to visit Saudi Arabia.”
For enhancing the KSA’s hospitality industry, Mahfouz thinks there is a need to reinforce the role of customer service, sales and marketing departments.
“In addition, we need to focus more on utilizing social media to promote the country’s religious sector to inform them about the huge investments made to strengthen further the sector to offer better services to visitors.” Mahfouz said. "I am sure by strengthening these areas, we can attract even more travelers from across the globe. “
Elaf Group continues to play an essential role in promoting and facilitating tourism for religious purposes through several hotels across the KSA.
“We offer a wide range of services, including travel and tours, hospitality, and Hajj and Umrah to people all over the world,” Mahfouz said. “Our group remains committed to further enhancing its services to ensure satisfied tourists, facilitating further growth and expansion of the Saudi hospitality industry.”