Saudis spent around SR78 billion ($21 billion) on tourism overseas last year, down 20% from the previous year, which amounted to SR97.3 billion ($26 billion), an Arabic daily reported. The year 2016 saw the largest percentage of spending.
The spending calculation does not include the costs of international transport, according to the Tourism Information and Research Center, run by the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage.
The number of departure flights in 2017 declined by 0.6%, or decreased by 136,000 flights, and amounted to 21.1 million flights, compared to 21.2 million flights in 2016.
Last year, the largest number of flights landed in the Gulf countries, constituting 48% of all flights made by Saudis overseas, and in the Middle Eastern countries constituting 24% of all flights. The number of tourists was 10.1 million. In other words, the departure flights to Middle Eastern countries constituted 72% of all flights.
Flights to South Asia countries came third at 2.9 million, followed by European countries at 1.3 million, African countries at 889,000 flights, East Asian countries at 758,000 flights, North and South America at 136,000 flights.
Around SR36.6 billion were spent last year on holidays and shopping and SR34.5 billion were spent on flights where travelers visited their relatives and friends. Business flights accounted last year for a billion Saudi riyals.
The tourism sector has seen sweeping transformation to enhance its contribution to economic diversification in line with Vision 2030. Many tourist and entertainment projects have been announced to entice Saudi tourists and convince them to spend their money locally so that the national economy can benefit from it. Some of the major projects include the Red Sea Project, Neom City Project and Al-Qidiya Project.