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RIYAD: The Radisson Hotel Group is very optimistic about the growth of the Saudi tourism market.

The group is now planning to quadruple the number of hotels it operates in the Kingdom, as it plans to move its regional headquarters to Riyadh this year.

Today, the Group operates 24 serviced hotels, resorts and apartments in Saudi Arabia and has 20 more under development, but the growth it is seeing in the Saudi tourism market has taken it from 24 to over 80 over the next five years.

Speaking in an exclusive interview with Arab News in Riyadh, Radisson CEO Federico J. González said they need to revisit their plans and consider increasing that number to 100.

“Yesterday I was discussing with the teams that we should actually increase those goals to 100 because the speed of transformation that you see in this country is unlike any other country in the world,” he added.

Asked about the growth of Radisson’s business in Saudi Arabia relative to other international markets, González said it was the second fastest growing market after China, where the hotel brand adds a significant number of hotels.

Federico J. González, CEO of Radisson

“I don’t think if you go around the world you would see another country where the level of tourism transformation is as important as the one you are doing,” he said.

Radisson plans to support Saudi Arabia’s goal of 100 million visitors by 2030 with its new hotels. The Group’s portfolio in Saudi Arabia now represents around 50% of its presence in the Middle East region.

The Kingdom plans to develop 854,000 additional hotel rooms, 70% of which are financed by the private sector. After opening up to international tourism in 2019, Saudi Arabia has issued more than 400,000 eVisas, becoming the fastest growing tourist destination in the world before the pandemic.

As part of the Saudi Vision 2030 and the National Tourism Strategy, the Kingdom plans to increase tourism’s contribution to GDP to 10%, creating a million new jobs and making Saudi Arabia one of the top five tourist destinations in the world.

González met with Tourism Minister Ahmed Al-Khateeb on January 10 to discuss the group’s expansion plans aligned with Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030.

Among the topics discussed at the meeting was the opening of a regional headquarters of Radisson Hotel Group in Riyadh this year in response to the group’s growing portfolio in the Kingdom.

They also talked about generating many new job opportunities and developing exchange programs for Saudi talent in the hospitality industry.

One of the topics Radisson has discussed with Saudi tourism officials is its concept of carbon-negative meetings – that all meetings held in its hotels must emit less carbon.

“Radisson as a group was the first company in the world to offer zero carbon meetings, and now we are turning them into negative carbon meetings,” added González.

González said Radisson is very supportive of sustainability, but he still sees the need to define the term better.

We’re working with different institutions, including the World Travel and Tourism Council, to try to help define what we call the basics of sustainability. “

“We have our commitments to reduce carbon emissions by 2050, but I think what we need to do now is make sure we do things now,” he said.

Highlights of Radisson’s expansion plan in Saudi Arabia include the opening of Mansard Riyadh, a Radisson Collection hotel and the opening of a fifth Radisson hotel in Riyadh with the Radisson Blu Hotel, Riyadh Qurtuba; doubling the group’s presence in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, by adding nearly 1,000 rooms and apartment hotels to Thakher City; and double the group’s presence in Jeddah with the addition of more than 600 rooms, most of which will open in 2022.