Mumbai: The Saudi Tourism Authority (STA) partnership with the TATA Indian Premier League (IPL) has deepened ties between Saudi and India, helping to harness the extraordinary potential of sport and tourism to bring people together and enrich lives.
Saudi is set to welcome two million visitors from India this year and India is expected to become its largest tourism source market by 2030.
Saudi support for India’s sports sector is a strong example of market collaboration delivering results.
Cricket is the most popular sport in India and the IPL has an immense global audience, third to only the English Premier League and the National Football League.
STA is tapping into this fanbase to boost awareness of Saudi as an exciting new year-round destination for Indian travelers, especially young people. The strategic partnership is broadening how India and Saudi are engaging with similarly overwhelmingly young demographics – with more than half of both populations below the age of 30.
Alongside the IPL partnership, Saudi is easing access for millions of visitors across India, inspiring Indian travelers to explore the authentic home of Arabia. Saudi has opened nine VFS Tasheel offices in different locations across India such as Hyderabad, Mumbai, Chennai, Kochi, Ahmedabad, and Bangalore providing practical support to Indian travelers interested in a trip to Saudi.
Indian visitors are eligible for the new stopover visa, introduced earlier this year, which will allow passengers traveling to a final destination on SAUDIA or Flynas to visit Saudi for up to 96 hours, which includes a complimentary hotel night for Saudia passengers.
These developments follow the rapid advancements in air connectivity between India and the kingdom with seven direct carriers in operation – SAUDIA, Flynas, Air India, Air India Express, Indigo Airlines, Spice Jet and Vistara and the recently launched route between Jeddah and Ahmedabad by Indigo airlines which increases the accessibility between the two countries. The expansion is part of Saudi’s air connectivity program and will turn Riyadh into a global hub that will be able to accommodate 120 million passengers in the next seven years.
Saudi Tourism Authority APAC president Alhasan Aldabbagh said, “Partnerships like the IPL are a key pillar of Saudi’s tourism strategy as they bring fans, athletes, and nations together while sparking curiosity from those that may want to be among the first to visit Saudi as a destination.”
Saudi has a fast-growing love for cricket. In 2020, the Saudi Arabian Cricket Federation (SACF) was set up, managing 16 regional associations in 11 cities, over 8,000 registered players, and over 400 registered clubs, with a total participation of 35,000 in domestic cricket tournaments and championships. The Saudi cricket national team is presently ranked 32 out of 108 nations in cricket.
The collaboration will not only strengthen Saudi’s commitment to India as an important market but seeks to broaden Saudi’s association with cricket – with the Saudi Vision 2030 plan aiming to increase community participation in sports from 13 per cent to 40 per cent by 2030.
The country is home to six UNESCO World Heritage sites like nowhere else in the world. The ancient city of AlUla is the world’s largest living museum, holding 200,000 years of largely unexplored human history with vast canyons, rock-cut tombs and stunning landscapes, along with world-class restaurants and trailblazing luxury resorts.
Saudi’s diverse landscape can be enjoyed year-round, from the cool, green highlands of Asir where the locals holiday in the summer to the pristine waters of Saudi’s 1,700km long Red Sea coast where you can swim amongst rare fish and the world’s fourth-largest coral reef.