Saudi Arabia: Hidden paradise for Chinese luxury travelers

    Saudi Arabia plans to attract more than 5 million Chinese visitors by the end of the decade. Could the kingdom become the next premier destination for luxury travel?
    Photo: Shutterstock
    Jason WangAuthor
      Published   in Travel

    Saudi Arabia is implementing a comprehensive initiative aimed at promoting its diverse landscapes and cultural heritage on a global scale. With a substantial financial commitment of $800 billion, the country seeks to unveil the untapped beauty of its natural assets.

    As part of its strategic approach, Saudi Arabia plans to allocate $500 billion towards amplifying the visibility of its tourism offerings in emerging markets, with a strong focus on China. Recognizing the nation's flourishing economy and its increasing demand for exclusive travel experiences, the Saudi Tourism Authority views China as a pivotal opportunity for establishing Saudi Arabia as a premier luxury travel destination.

    Motivated by its ambitious Saudi Vision 2030, a government program to diversify socially and economically, the kingdom has set a target to attract more than 5 million Chinese visitors by the end of the decade.

    Connecting with China#

    "For us, we realize we would never be able to hit our targets without securing a substantial portion of the Chinese outbound traveler market. Therefore, we've been keen to do everything possible to attract and delight Chinese travelers," says Fahd Hamidaddin, CEO of the Saudi Tourism Authority.

    Hamidaddin notes the establishment of partnerships with 700 enrolled entities in China, including key players like and Tencent's WeChat, to advance these goals.

    The Saudi tourism board has also engaged a Chinese advertising agency and a specialized PR team adept at understanding the preferences of Chinese travelers.

    Saudi Arabia’s tourism chief elaborates, "We invested heavily in research to ensure we identified the right segments that would be the first willing to explore a destination like Saudi. Also, we have been investing a lot in trying to get closer to the Chinese travelers and understand their likes and dislikes."

    Diverse landscapes and experiences#

    Hamidaddin asserts that Saudi Arabia, often referred to as the "home of Arabia," presents a rich tapestry of diverse landscapes and experiences awaiting Chinese travelers.

    "From the northern skiing resorts of Trojena, which will host the 2029 Asian Winter Games, to the picturesque Red Sea offering 1,700 kilometers of possibilities for diving, island exploration, and cruising — at the heart of Arabia, expansive dunes and desert adventures await, including camel rides, stargazing, and archaeological sites steeped in stories spanning millennia.”

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    “The southern part of the country offers a perfect summer escape, with the Arabian highlands boasting pleasant temperatures and lush green mountains,” he continues. “Over 1,500 villages in the area offer opportunities for adventure, hiking, and cultural immersion.”

    Next luxury destination for Chinese travelers#

    Travel experts have expressed confidence in Saudi Arabia’s endeavors to position itself as a new sought-after destination for Chinese travelers.

    “With a clear-cut and refined tourism marketing strategy based on the existing national Vision 2030 framework and backed up by the necessary resources, I have no doubt Saudi Arabia can become a popular luxury destination in the Chinese market,” says Oliver Sedlinger, CEO of Sedlinger & Associates, a specialized tourism consultancy focusing on the Greater China outbound travel market.

    He acknowledges the challenges, noting that success will require expertise, time, and persistence to effectively communicate the destination's strengths and cultivate an attractive image.

    Highlighting the significance of a comprehensive strategy, Sedlinger underscores the value of collaborating with major partners to enhance outreach and increase the chances of success. He also suggests considering smaller, specialized partners and platforms for a more grassroots approach, providing access to specific target groups and communities.

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    Gary Bowerman, Asia travel and consumer trends analyst and director of the consultancy Check-in Asia, shares the sentiment, noting that the CEO of the Saudi Tourism Authority was one of the first global tourism industry leaders to visit China when it reopened.

    “The kingdom is investing a great deal of time, resources, and research to accurately target travel consumers, build partnerships, and customize products. It is also taking time to understand the pain points for Chinese travelers when visiting overseas destinations. I think this targeted approach will deliver results, and Chinese tourists will respect the efforts Saudi Arabia is taking to encourage them to visit,” he says.

    Despite the long flight times, Bowerman sees potential in capturing a significant portion of the Chinese outbound market, especially with the influence of Chinese social media. “Once Chinese tourists start posting ‘wow’ videos about their experiences, it will become a talked-about and coveted destination for travel trend setters and experience chasers,” he adds.

    “Once Chinese tourists start posting ‘wow’ videos about their experiences, it will become a talked-about and coveted destination for travel trend setters and experience chasers."

    Bowerman commends Saudi Arabia's marketing tactics, which focus on promoting landscapes and experiences previously unfamiliar to Chinese tourists.

    “That sense of untapped desirability is a potent marketing tool in China. It will also focus on safety and security, which are important factors for Chinese travelers, and it has high-speed railways, which will appeal to young Chinese travelers,” he says.

    Sedlinger points out Saudi Arabia's wealth of natural and cultural resources, coupled with substantial investments in innovation and infrastructure. “If you look at super spectacular projects such as Neom, it is easy to imagine how this will drive global interest in the country and how it will create a wish to visit and experience,” he adds.

    • Saudi Arabia is strategically enhancing its natural and cultural assets with an $800 billion investment to position itself as a luxury travel destination, with a focus on China's burgeoning market.
    • The Saudi Tourism Authority is partnering with 700 Chinese entities and leveraging digital platforms like WeChat, alongside specialized marketing and PR expertise, to attract Chinese tourists.
    • Saudi Arabia offers a wealth of diverse experiences, from Trojena's northern skiing to the Red Sea's diving adventures and the southern highlands' cultural immersion opportunities.
    • Luxury brands looking to expand their reach should consider Saudi Arabia's diverse offerings, tailoring their strategies to cater to the preferences of affluent Chinese travelers, thus tapping into the burgeoning market potential of this emerging luxury destination.
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