UK, Saudi Arabia Sign Agreement to Boost Tourism at Great Futures Expo

| June 3, 2024
UK, Saudi Arabia Sign Agreement to Boost Tourism at Great Futures Expo

The United Kingdom (UK) and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) will collaborate mutually to grow their tourism economies.

The UK’s national tourism agency, VisitBritain, and Saudi Arabia’s Saudi Tourism Authority signed a Declaration of Intent on 14 May 2024.

VisitBritain CEO Patricia Yates and Saudi Tourism Authority CEO Fahd Hamidaddin signed it during Great Futures, a major trade expo held in Riyadh on 14 and 15 May.

The Great Futures event, led by the UK in partnership with the Saudi Arabian government, is a two-day business, tourism, and cultural expo.

UK Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer expressed her delight in the UK and Saudi signing the Declaration of Intent.

According to the news release, she also took pride in tourism being “an integral part of what makes Britain so great.”

With the agreement, Frazer said the UK “can share the UK’s invaluable expertise on tourism and gain key insights from our Saudi partners.”

H.E. Ahmed Al-Khateeb, Saudi Arabia’s Tourism Minister, said it “offers enormous opportunities” for Saudi Arabia and the UK to boost tourism.

He added that it “underlines the close relationship between the two countries.”

Al-Khateeb revealed they are “developing remarkable projects that celebrate our unique culture and heritage.”

He added that these projects aim to “become as iconic as UK attractions like the Tower of London and Stonehenge.”

“We see limitless potential ahead to welcome visitors from Britain and around the world,” said Al-Khateeb, who is also the Saudi Tourism Authority’s Chair of the Board of Directors.

VisitBritain CEO Patricia Yates shared that the agreement builds on the UK’s broader engagement with Saudi Arabia.

She added that the agreement will help in “bringing the best of Britain to Saudi visitors and harnessing the timely and valuable opportunities for growth.”

“We look forward to working with the Saudi Tourism Authority to boost our competitive tourism offer,” Yates said.

The UK’s Great Futures tourism campaign

The Great Futures expo launches a year-long campaign to drive business engagement between the UK and the KSA.

The UK and the KSA signed 13 agreements in various sectors during the event. This includes tourism, education, health care, and the financial services sector.

The Declaration of Intent sets out comprehensive areas of cooperation between the UK and the KSA, aiming to develop and grow tourism.

With it, VisitBritain and the Saudi Tourism Authority will collaborate and exchange knowledge and expertise in domestic and international tourism.

The agreement was signed during VisitBritain’s Great Futures program, which included a networking event with Saudi Arabia.

The program promotes British destinations and the UK’s latest tourism products and experiences.

It aims to broaden travel itineraries so Saudi visitors will explore more of the UK’s nations and regions.

During the program, VisitBritain launched the latest phase of its marketing campaign in Saudi Arabia.

It showcased the exciting experiences and destinations across Britain’s countryside, coast, and vibrant cities.

The ‘Spilling the Tea on GREAT Britain’ campaign directs consumers to VisitBritain’s new Arabic website. This special website aims to encourage Saudi travelers to plan trips to Britain in 2024.

VisitBritain also hosted and participated in a roundtable discussion with KSA counterparts.

The participants shared insights and experiences on promoting a country globally, developing destinations to spread tourism growth, and more.

The UK ETA for Saudi Arabian nationals

The new UK Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA) has made it easier and cheaper for KSA nationals to visit the UK.

The ETA is the UK’s new digital travel permit system for travelers who can visit the UK without a visa.

It replaces the Electronic Visa Waiver (EVW) Saudi Arabian travelers must obtain before they visit the UK.

An EVN costs £30 per application and must be paid every time Saudis visit the UK.

On the other hand, an ETA costs £10 per application. It is valid for multiple visits over two years or until the passport it is linked to expires.

Currently, only travelers from Bahrain, Kuwait, Jordan, Oman, Qatar, the KSA, and the United Arab Emirates require an ETA to visit the UK.

However, the UK government plans to apply the scheme to all non-visa travelers by the end of 2024.

VisitBritain revealed that the KSA is a vital visitor market for the UK.

It forecasts 240,000 visits from the KSA to the UK this year, up nine percent from 2019.

It also predicts that Saudi Arabian visitors’ spending on their trips to the UK will reach £752 million, up 20 percent from 2019.

Conversely, the KSA hosted over 165,000 UK nationals in the first quarter of 2024.

Last year, the Gulf nation welcomed 100 million visitors from the UK.