Travel behaviour has seen a shift towards longer trip lengths and increased spend whilst domestic leisure trips are becoming increasingly popular.
Almosafer, Saudi Arabia’s leading travel company, has published a new report at the Arabian Travel Market, which reveals the latest travel trends of Saudi travellers venturing abroad and exploring their Kingdom domestically.
The report shows that the top international destinations for Saudi travellers include Dubai, Cairo, London, Istanbul and Doha. Since the resumption of travel to Türkiye in the summer of 2022, the destination has catapulted its way back to one of the top choices for Saudi travellers. Doha, on the other hand, has retained its appeal for Saudi travellers as a leisure destination, even after the World Cup in Q4 2022. Trending destinations include Rome, Bangkok and Seoul, with other Asian destinations also gaining popularity.
The report shows that the demand for domestic travel in the Kingdom remains very strong, even despite the full resumption of international travel. In the year to date, domestic bookings have accounted for 56% of total bookings, up from 47% for the same period pre-pandemic in 2019. On the domestic side, all-time favourite domestic destinations Riyadh, Jeddah, Dammam, Makkah and Abha continue to dominate, whilst trending destinations for trips within KSA include AlUla, Taif and Najran.
In terms of booking channels, the data shows that 89% of total bookings are made online compared to 11% made offline, illustrating the seamless user experience offered by Almosafer’s omnichannel touchpoints, but also the need for advisory through WhatsApp, call centre or via retail branches for more complex itineraries. This is especially true for domestic bookings, where almost half (49%) of all bookings are placed via retail channels, indicating that Saudi travellers are seeking travel advisory services for leisure trips in their own country.
Almosafer’s report also shows that overall, Saudi travellers are spending more on longer trips. The average trip length has increased by 13% to 9.1 days, up from 8 days in 2019, whereas the average order value has increased by 15% since pre-pandemic.
The data shows that this shift is even more amplified in domestic trips. While domestic travel used to be driven by shorter trips for purposes such as visiting family, friends or for special occasions, Saudis are now considering their own country as a destination to explore, as they spend more money on longer leisure trips in the Kingdom.
There has also been a significant increase in the average length of domestic trips of 36% to 5-day trips in 2023 compared to 3.7 days in 2019. Longer trips mean that travellers are also spending more money with the average order value for domestic trips increasing by 40% in 2023 compared to 2019. The average booking window for domestic travel has also increased by 12% to 7.7 days in 2023, up from 6.9 days in 2019, suggesting that Saudis are spending more time to plan their domestic trips.
Overall, bookings for five-star hotels have also increased from 46% of total hotel bookings in 2019 to 52% in 2023. This increase in spending mirrors the global trend as people are choosing more luxurious and meaningful experiences since travel has rebounded. Domestically, Saudis are also spending more money on luxury accommodation now that there is a wider range of options available with the introduction of luxury hotels and resort brands to the Kingdom in locations such as AlUla.
Travellers are also showing an increasingly strong preference for low-cost carriers over full service carriers when booking flights. In 2023, bookings for low-cost carriers accounted for 62% of total flight bookings, up from 47% in 2019, while bookings for full-service carriers decreased from 53% in 2019 to 38% in 2023. This increase in bookings for low-cost carriers reflects the increase in capacity and routes, and travellers are opting for more economical flight choices while choosing to instead spend more at their destination.
Other trends include an increase in the number of solo travellers who account for 24% of travellers in 2023, up from 14% in 2019; and for customers of Almosafer Concierge, the first luxury travel concierge service from Saudi Arabia, wellness experiences and luxury honeymoon island stays are emerging as the top trends.
Muzzammil Ahussain, Chief Executive Officer of Almosafer, said: "The incredible appetite for travel remains undiminished in the Kingdom and our report shows that people continue to grasp opportunities to travel both internationally and domestically. They are spending more money on longer trips and meaningful experiences when they travel. What is also becoming apparent is that Saudi Arabia has become a leisure destination for many Saudis who are beginning to discover the wealth of attractions at their own doorstep."
As a national champion of tourism in Saudi Arabia, Almosafer will continue to capitalise on growing demand for tourism, catering the needs of its customers and supporting the tourism agenda of Saudi Vision 2030.
Report based on proprietary booking data from Almosafer’s Consumer Travel Business across omnichannel touchpoints. Comparisons are based on bookings placed between January 1st – April 20th, 2019 vs. January 1st – April 20th in 2023.