Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Sport and the Ministry of Tourism are looking to increase the contribution of sports to the GDP by focusing on the crossroads of the two ministries – sports tourism
A new age of sports tourism is dawning in Saudi Arabia, even as the kingdom welcomes tourists for the second edition of its F1 Saudi Arabia Grand Prix in Jeddah – the first-of-its-kind in the post-Covid era after the relaxation of precautionary measures earlier in 2022.
At present, the sports sector contributes approximately 0.2 percent of the kingdom’s GDP, while the tourism sector contributes about 3 percent, according to the Ministry of Sport and the Ministry of Tourism.
The two ministries have ambitious targets for growth: sports should contribute 0.6 percent of the GDP and the contribution of tourism to the GDP must rise to 10 percent by 2030. One of the major areas for growth sits at the crossroads of the two: sports tourism.
Across these categories, the model emphasises coordination between organisers, mainly the private sector, public sector enablers, and national tourism promoters, stating that this coordination is critical to attract foreign tourists and participation in sport events.
The first “destination-dependent sports tourism” category notes that the kingdom’s vast natural infrastructure is a major “pull factor” for sports tourism. This includes activities such as diving and other watersports along the Red Sea coast, as well as mountain climbing, and desert activities such as rally racing, running, cycling, and motor and quad biking.
The second model, “alternative location sports tourism,” refers to the sport that tourists often play close to home when they are not on vacation. The sport – or entire vacation – is enhanced by the destination.
A key example is golf, already one of the most prolific tourism sports around the world. The landscape and coastline of Saudi Arabia provide an outstanding and spectacular environment for the sport, and as Dubai has shown, it can truly be a game changer, the KPMG report states.
The third model, “participation-driven sports tourism,” is the least explored aspect of sports tourism, but has real potential as the country continues to open up for tourists.
As the kingdom opens up for visitors, mass participation in sports tourism is expected to grow through events such as marathons and competitive cycling.
Lastly, the “spectator sports tourism” category offers excellent potential, referring to multi-sports games such as the Olympics, Asian Games, Asia Cup, World Cup, Formula One, and the likes.
Over the last few years, Saudi Arabia has already seen a large increase in such activities and events, showcasing the capabilities and ambitions of hosting large-scale regional and global events.
The partner for the Government and Public Sector at KPMG in Saudi Arabia, Hanan Alowain, said: “These events are targeted at this time in repositioning the Saudi brand as a sports destination and thereby influencing the tourism demand in other elements of this model.”
Nonetheless, major events nearly always require significant infrastructure development. Events promoted by the public sector can significantly impact the potential of other elements of sports tourism.
“The kingdom has a reputation as a safe, welcoming tourist destination. Its familiarity among religious tourists may draw them back to the kingdom for non-religious tourism purposes or may encourage them to stay longer and diversify the purpose of their visit,” Alowain concluded.
Source: Arabian Business