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    Saudi Arabia launches its biggest travel campaign in China. Will Chinese tourists bite?

    The Saudi Tourism Authority has launched its biggest travel campaign in China. Will this bring Saudi Arabia closer to attracting 3 million Chinese tourists by 2030?
    The Saudi Tourism Authority has launched its biggest travel campaign in China. Will this bring Saudi Arabia closer to attracting 3 million Chinese tourists by 2030? Photo: Saudi Tourism Authority
      Published   in News

    What happened

    On November 17, the Saudi Tourism Authority (STA) landed in Shanghai to launch its biggest integrated travel campaign in China. Over 13,000 visitors flocked to the Bund to participate in the Saudi Souk Festival, a celebration of Saudi Arabia’s culture, heritage, and natural beauty, and enjoy live performances along the waterfront.

    Running from November 17 to 23, the Saudi Souk Festival features food, traditional attire, and live performances. Photo: Xiaohongshu
    Running from November 17 to 23, the Saudi Souk Festival features food, traditional attire, and live performances. Photo: Xiaohongshu

    As part of the campaign, STA released a series of Saudi experience films on national TV and major tech platforms in China, such as Ctrip, Mafengwo, and Tencent, reaching hundreds of millions of viewers at home. The films give Chinese travelers a taste of what they can experience in Saudi Arabia, such as stargazing, snorkeling in the Red Sea, and riding in a hot-air balloon.

    The STA also unveiled a series of how-to videos on its VisitSaudi.cn website to help Chinese audiences navigate Saudi Arabia with confidence, from wearing traditional attire to connecting to the internet at the airport.

    “We are delighted to share the wonders of Saudi with our Chinese friends,” said Alhasan Aldabbagh, President of APAC Markets at the Saudi Tourism Authority. “We hope that this campaign will inspire them to discover our country … as well as foster a deeper understanding and appreciation of the similarities between our two cultures, and strengthen the bonds of friendship and cooperation between our two nations.”

    The Jing Take

    Indeed, there is a lot of synergy between China and Saudi Arabia. Building upon the Belt and Road Initiative, the two countries have been working to enhance connectivity through infrastructure development, commerce, and cultural exchanges. Travel plays a big role in this, with Saudi Arabia aiming to attract 3 million Chinese tourists annually by 2030 and generate 46 billion in tourism revenue in total.

    So far, the kingdom has made steady progress toward this goal. In addition to achieving approved destination status (ADS) in September 2023, enabling Chinese citizens to enter the country through group tours, Saudi Arabia has rolled out key initiatives to facilitate movement: simplifying the visa process, offering integrated Chinese payment solutions, and launching more daily flights.

    At the same time, Saudi Arabia has been garnering interest on Chinese social media. The country is featured on the latest season of a Chinese reality show called Divas Hit the Road (花儿与少年), where seven Chinese celebrities, including Dior ambassador Dilraba Dilmurat and Tory Burch ambassador Qin Lan, travel the world together on a tight budget. In the first few episodes, the group is seen trying local cuisine, karting in Boulevard Riyadh City, visiting Elephant Rock, and riding the Giant Swing in AlUla.

    The cast of Divas Hit the Road 5 visit AlUla, Saudi Arabia. Photo: Weibo
    The cast of Divas Hit the Road 5 visit AlUla, Saudi Arabia. Photo: Weibo

    After the first episode aired on October 25, receiving 340 million views, there was a 772 percent increase in searches for “Saudi Arabia” month-on-month on online travel services provider Qunar. On Xiaohongshu, the hashtag “Divas Hit the Road Travel Guide” (#花少团旅行路书) has 15.9 million views, with netizens posting about their experiences copying the show’s itinerary. Meanwhile, the broader “Saudi Arabia” hashtag on Xiaohongshu has over 276 million views to date.

    “Although the year is not over yet, my best destination has been decided: AlUla, Saudi Arabia!” wrote a Xiaohongshu user. “Before coming here, I had a stereotypical impression of Saudi Arabia; apart from wealth, it seemed to have nothing, and it wasn't considered a women-friendly country. However, after a five-day, four-night trip, I can't wait to recommend this hidden gem of a city to everyone around me.”

    Clearly, Chinese tourists are adding emerging destinations to their bucket lists. And Saudi Arabia is ready to welcome them, all but rolling out the red carpet for their arrival.

    The Jing Take reports on a piece of the leading news and presents our editorial team’s analysis of the key implications for the luxury industry. In the recurring column, we analyze everything from product drops and mergers to heated debate sprouting on Chinese social media.

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