Saudi Arabia is forecasting immense growth of its cruise tourism sector as MSC Cruises begins its inaugural cruise season in the country with MSC Bellissima.
On the same day that Cruise Saudi and MSC Cruises celebrated the opening of the country’s first cruise terminal at Jeddah Islamic Port, it was announced that Saudi Arabia is planning to welcome even more cruise passengers than Dubai in the next five years.
“We’re targeting creating 50,000 job opportunities by 2025, increasing cruise ships, inaugurating additional ports beside Jeddah Islamic Port, and reaching 1.5 million visitors annually by 2028,” said Fawaz Farooqi, Managing Director of Cruise Saudi Arabia.
During the 2019/2020 cruise season, Dubai was scheduled to surpass 1 million cruise tourists for the first time, but was forced to shut down its cruise sector in March, along with all other cruise destinations globally, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The opening of the cruise terminal in Jeddah is the first of several planned cruise passenger terminals along the country’s Red Sea coast, with the future popular cruise destinations Al Wajh and Yanbu likely to be next to get a cruise terminal.
MSC Cruises’ Executive Chairman, Pierfrancesco Vago, agreed with Cruise Saudi’s forecast, saying Saudi Arabia offered cruise passengers history, culture and beautiful beaches.
“We can now allow our global guest base to come and experience our unique itineraries in this beautiful country with its historic UNESCO World Heritage sites and pristine shores,” he said.
“We will work in unison to develop this very special aspect of Saudi Arabia’s determined and sustainable growth in tourism which mirrors exactly our own strategy and ambition,” he added.
Vago said MSC Cruises would attract guests from all corners of the world, as well as the local markets in the Middle East.
Chief Operations and Commercial Officer for Cruise Saudi, Mark Robinson, said that the opening of the cruise terminal in Jeddah marked a great milestone for Cruise Saudi and for the tourism industry in Saudi Arabia.
“The remit of Cruise Saudi to create 50,000 jobs by 2025, to facilitate the building of an additional five ports, with Jeddah as a homeport, and to welcome 1.5 million annual passenger visits by 2028 is an ambitious one,” he said.
“[This will] play a major part in strengthening the tourism industry in Saudi Arabia,” he added. “It is a vision that we would not be able to accomplish were it not for our trusted business partners such as MSC.”