With an aim to double the number of leisure travellers and pilgrims to Saudi Arabia from Singapore this year, the Saudi Tourism Authority (STA) was in Singapore on Wednesday to put forth a number of initiatives to raise awareness of the Middle Eastern nation.
The first initiative is the launch of Nusuk, a platform that provides pilgrims and leisure visitors an easy-to-use planning tool that will help with planning and booking their trips to Makkah, Madinah and beyond.
When asked how the Nusuk platform benefits travel agents, Alhasan Aldabbagh, STA’s president Asia-Pacific, told TTG Asia: “We are here to enable them and help them realise bigger opportunities in Saudi Arabia. Through Nusuk, travel agents will have access to the Saudi supplier space – DMCs, hotels, and ground handling and operations as they build new travel packages for their clients.”
This is a major change from its previous legacy system that was only restricted to a few operators, which resulted in a monopoly and inflation of prices, he elaborated.
Alhasan pointed out that one of the largest challenges now for the market in Singapore and Asia-Pacific, is the need to “raise awareness about the different destinations in Saudi Arabia”, and the “diversity of its offerings” that can meet different travel needs.
This is why STA’s other initiative, the roll out of Umrah+ packages, have been designed to portray Saudi Arabia as a great holiday destination beyond pilgrimages. It highlights attractions such as Saudi Arabia’s six UNESCO World Heritage sites, and its more than 10,000 archaeological areas such as Al Balad in Jeddah and Turaif in Diriyah.
Singapore is one of the 49 countries that is eligible for an e-visa, which lasts for a year and allows for multiple entries for stays up to 30 days. In 2022, 30,000 Singaporean travellers visited Saudi Arabia, and STA aims to double that this year.
“Singapore is an important market, as it is able to influence other markets in the region,” Alhasan opined.
In the same vein, five Memoranda of Understanding to promote travel to Saudi Arabia were also signed at the event, with the Association of Muslim Travel Agents Singapore, and four Singaporean travel companies Azza Travel & Tours, Shahidah Travel & Tours, TM Fouzy Travel & Tours, and TravelConnect.sg.
Aside from Singapore, STA is also focused on attracting visitors from Malaysia, Indonesia, South Korea, Japan, India, as well as China – China will be the next stop for STA, where it will be visiting four cities there, shared Alhasan.
The last initiative revealed during the media session was the 96-hour Stopover Visa, which is open to all flying through the country on Saudia or Flynas. Travellers will be able to stopover for up to 96 hours to explore the country, as well as enjoy a complimentary one-night hotel stay.
When asked how much investment was being pumped into tourism, Alhasan shared with TTG Asia: “We are investing hundreds of billions of dollars into the tourism ecosystem. This includes the development of infrastructure projects like Neom, and the Murabba in Riyadh, (as well as) in investments in marketing, working with celebrities and influencers in each market, hosting fam trips, and other trade events.”