In recent years, Saudi Arabia has emerged as a unique tourist destination on the global stage. Visitors have a wealth of experiences to explore, whether it is to delve into the kingdom’s religious and ancient history, admire its natural landscapes, or take part in exciting events across the arts, sports, business, and technology.
Last year Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Tourism reported that a total of 93.5 million domestic and international tourists spent more than $49 billion in the country, with the tourism sector accounting for 3.2 percent of the GDP.
This paints a picture of tremendous opportunity for the hospitality sector – tourists from various backgrounds are eager to see what the country has to offer. For Saudis, it is the chance to see their country in all its magnificent diversity. For international visitors, it is about discovering a rich culture, perhaps for the first time. While countries in Europe, Asia, and the Americas are seeing a decline in hotel room development, nations in the Gulf, particularly Saudi Arabia and UAE, are bucking the trend. The record for the biggest hotel supply pipeline in the region currently belongs to Saudi, with an estimated 310,000 hotel rooms to be built by 2030.
With that in mind, the luxury hotel sector can carve out its own significant role within the ecosystem. Such enterprises are not just about providing customised service and ultimate comfort, the essence of a luxury hotel experience is to give guests something that they have never experienced before. This translates variedly, from sites in remote locations to wellness-oriented approaches.
For us at Boutique Group, our distinctive quality is our deep and tangible connection to Saudi Arabia’s heritage and history through our transformation of Saudi Arabia’s palaces into spaces of luxury and leisure. The country is not short of its share of architectural gems, from centuries-old structures to skyscrapers, but there are several sites from Saudi’s modern history that tell the story of its progress. For example, The Red Palace, which was built in 1943 as a gift from the kingdom’s founding father to his son. There is also the Tuwaiq Palace in the Diplomatic Quarter. Built in 1985 and designed by Frei Otto and Omraia, the project won the Aga Khan Award for Architecture in 1998.
Boutique Group has three palaces that are under development, with several others under consideration. In previous years, these palaces were otherwise closed to the public, but soon their doors will open to allow Saudi visitors to appreciate their own history up-close and for tourists to explore the kingdom’s culture and history in a novel way. We work closely with the Saudi Ministry of Culture to examine these destinations individually, to add variety for our guests, and to be true to our promise of Saudi hospitality.
As much as we see our hotels as bridges to Saudi heritage and culture, we also understand the importance of luxury hotels for Vision 2030 and the kingdom’s transformation towards a more diversified economy. The Ministry of Tourism estimates $6 trillion worth of investment opportunities in the travel and tourism sector through to 2030, which means economic growth, business revenue, and job prospects.
Currently, the kingdom is training 100,000 people every year to work in the tourism sector, including young Saudi men and women. Such is the immense impact of the tourism and hospitality sector. In truth, hotels are not only spaces for accommodation, they represent enterprise and people – they belong to an ecosystem that enables livelihood, development, and progress.
About the author
Mark DeCocinis is CEO, Boutique Group. He spoke at the Future Hospitality Summit Saudi Arabia (FHS) in the panel titled ‘The Business of Luxury and Wellness in a Changing World’ with fellow panelists Agnès Roquefort, Chief Development Officer, Luxury & Lifestyle at Accor, and Neil Jacobs, Chief Executive Officer of Six Senses. This session was moderated by Ruben Toral, Director of Health & Wellness at QUO Global, and took place on the Summit Stage at FHS Saudi Arabia.