Travel & Hospitality Seera’s return to operating profit reflects Saudi tourism push By Andy Sambidge March 29, 2023 Maraya Concert Hall Saudi Arabia's modern and ancient tourist attractions combine with the mirrored Maraya Concert Hall in the desert region of Al-Ula Travel giant nearly doubled gross booking value to $2.5bnKingdom recorded 93.5m domestic and international visitsIncrease of 121% from pre-pandemic tourism levels Saudi travel giant Seera Group has announced its first operating profit since the coronavirus pandemic as the kingdom continues to emerge as a global tourism destination. Driven by the resurgence in demand for travel, Seera Group generated a gross booking value of SR9.3 billion ($2.5 billion) last year, nearly double the figure recorded in 2021. Revenue grew by 77 percent to SR2.3 billion in 2022, resulting in the first group-wide operating profit (SR3 million) since the outbreak of the pandemic, compared to an operating loss of SR286 million in 2021. The company recorded an overall net loss of SR48 million in 2022 compared to losses of SR372 million in the previous year. Gulf expects China rebound as tourists return from isolationSaudi Arabia launches second new airlineSaudi tourism appeal growing ‘at the speed of light’ The results come as the kingdom recorded a total of 93.5 million domestic and international visits last year as it transforms “at a scale and pace the world has never witnessed before”, according to Fahd Hamidaddin, CEO of Saudi Tourism Authority. “Regardless of the growth recorded across our businesses, we maintained vigilance in our expenses, as we scaled back up post the pandemic,” the company said in a filing on the Saudi Stock Exchange. “Mitigating financial risks and strategic cost-effective deployment of capital, resources and time has enabled us to minimise losses and regain profitability.” Almosafer, Seera’s travel platform, which operates the consumer and business travel business lines, achieved 74 percent growth in gross booking value to SR6.1 billion last year and revenue of SR515 million, up 6 percent. Seera also said that its hospitality business – comprising eight hotels in Mecca, Riyadh and Jeddah – more than doubled its revenues to SR101 million in 2022, led by re-opening of borders and rebound in occupancy levels. Diriyah near Riyadh is becoming a destination for culture, hospitality and retail. Picture: Diriyah Gate Development Project Its car rental unit Lumi recorded 50 percent growth in revenue reaching SR783 million, a reflection of the growing fleet base, as well as the growing contribution of revenue from the sale of used cars. Earlier this month, the Saudi Tourism Authority signed a partnership agreement with Almosafer to promote domestic tourism in the kingdom. Under the agreement, Almosafer will launch a year-long campaign to promote domestic tourism, highlighting the attractions and experiences available and offering a range of discounts and promotions. Muzzammil Ahussain, CEO of Almosafer, said: “The appetite for domestic tourism remains strong as people are beginning to discover the attractions on their own doorstep. “We’re capitalising on this demand to help drive domestic tourism as we continue to develop our products and services to serve the travel needs of the kingdom.” Since opening to tourism in 2019 (it previously relied on religious tourists embarking on Umrah and Hajj pilgrimages) Saudi has been recognised as the world’s fastest-growing tourism destination in the G20. With a 121 percent increase from pre-pandemic international tourism levels, the kingdom is outpacing global tourism sector recovery and has committed $550 billion to new destinations by 2030. It aims to welcome 100 million visits by 2030. Saudi Arabia is also planning to increase international air connectivity from 140 cities to more than 250 by the end of the decade.