A presentation was shown highlighting the various aspects of the destination followed by a question-answer session where the travel agents discussed and inquired about the various topics such as the best season to travel, dress code for women during their stay in Saudi etc.
What is the aim of this event?
The primary goal of the event is refreshingly straightforward: to transform the travel industry’s perception of Saudi Arabia. The event put Saudi’s best foot forward in communicating it as one of the safest destinations in the Middle East, especially for female travellers. The TBO community members themselves have journeyed there and returned with experiences they proudly cherish for a lifetime. And as TBO Academy is an extended branch of TBO.COM which is a free learning and educational platform for travel partners and agents across the globe; we want to make sure we sway them in the right direction and not let misinformation flow in the travel trade sector. We did something similar for Saudi two months back in our Delhi event. Agents were coming up with questions about women’s safety, dress code, Do’s and don’ts. With this we saw the spark of interest and that’s what led to hosting such events in our offices across different cities to promote Saudi as a destination which is the safest country in the world for women travellers. Women at the event are talking to women from Saudi. There are also influencers and expats with whom they can interact to get a different view about the destination for women travellers.
How has the response from the women travellers been so far?
From last six months the perception has been changing. A lot of women ask me regarding the destination as well since I have been promoting this destination. Post IPL, Saudi has gained recognition as a potential travel hotspot. It remains an untapped gem offering a captivating blend of history, adventure, and abundant activities for women. They feel comfortable venturing out alone, even at night, and enjoy a vibrant nightlife scene, including Shisha cafes, given the absence of alcohol. The occurrence of snowfall in Saudi adds a unique facet to its diverse landscape. Despite Saudi’s recent foray into tourism just two years ago, there’s substantial room for development, but the evolving perception is evident. Saudi Arabia has actively courted attention by inviting Bollywood celebrities and hosting music festivals, aligning with their 2030 vision. There’s been a realization in the Middle East that tourism is a prominent sector.. They know that while promoting Saudi as a travel destination, India can’t be ignored since it is such a big population, and they are spending substantially on other destinations. Moreover, the unparalleled hospitality and luxury offered by the entire Middle East surpasses that of Europe or any other region, evident in the opulence and spaciousness of accommodations.
Religious tourism is a focal point for Saudi, with Mecca and Medina as prime destinations. For those seeking luxury, Alula stands out as a must-visit spot. Saudi’s diverse offerings prompt us to collaborate closely with travel agents to understand the challenges they encounter when sending clients there. We actively communicate these challenges to the Saudi Tourism Board, which has been earnestly working to address them. Our numerous FAM trips, specifically designed for women and others, highlight challenges related to inventory, culinary options, hospitality standards, and costs with the Saudi Tourism Board directly.
What is the USP that Saudi has to offer?
Saudi Arabia harbours untouched natural beauty, boasting lush-green landscapes, a rich tapestry of history, and boundless adventure. It stands as a safe and easily explorable country. It offers an array of biking tours amidst the natural wonders. There is no air pollution, providing a rare opportunity to immerse oneself in an unexplored destination waiting to be discovered.
What has been the percentage of women travellers that Saudi has been receiving from India?
Currently, the percentage is relatively low as people are in an exploratory phase. However, in the past six to seven months, following significant investment during IPL, there’s been increased interest. Particularly among the younger demographic, there’s a shift away from seeking alcohol-related activities and a keen interest in adventure pursuits like hiking and exploring high mountains. These are primarily solo travellers, students or even groups in some cases.
In short, it’s all about perception, to facilitate this change, our approach involves introducing travel agents to the destination first-hand. By allowing them to experience it themselves, they can authentically advocate for the destination to their clients.