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Saudi Arabia grants first maritime tourism licence

Visitors enjoy a Jeddah beach; Cruise Saudi already manages international cruise ship stops in Jeddah, Yanbu and Dammam Linda Schaefer/Alamy via Reuters Connect
Visitors enjoy the beach in Jeddah. Cruise Saudi already manages international cruise ship stops in Jeddah, Yanbu and Dammam
  • Cruise Saudi prepares to launch Aroya
  • Ship accommodates 3,362 passengers
  • Yacht trips for Red Sea tourists

Saudi Arabia has granted its first maritime tourism licence to a Public Investment Fund company ahead of the launch of its own cruise ships off the Red Sea coast this year. 

The government’s Saudi Red Sea Authority granted the licence on May 28 to Jeddah-based Cruise Saudi, which this month opened bookings for its ship Aroya Cruises.

The floating resort includes what it calls villas, can accommodate 3,362 passengers and includes 20 entertainment venues across 18 decks. 

The cruises are set to begin in December, with Red Sea trips including stops on a private island and in Egypt and Jordan, an official statement said. 

Cruise Saudi already manages international cruise ship stops in Jeddah, Yanbu and Dammam. Since it began in 2021, the PIF-owned company has welcomed 370,000 passengers at the three ports with deep enough waters to receive luxury liners. 

Tour operators are being encouraged to include on-shore activities in Jeddah, including visits to the historical district, Al Balad. 

Adult, Female, Person Mohammed Bukhari , the Saudi Red Sea Authority's vice president of coastal tourism operations presented the licence to Cruise Saudi's chief destination experiences officer Barbara Buczek at the Cruise Saudi headquarters in JeddahSPA
Mohammad Bokhari of the Saudi Red Sea Authority presented the licence to Cruise Saudi’s Barbara Buczek on Tuesday

The licence will allow Cruise Saudi to organise yacht trips for tourists on the Red Sea coast, which is a focus of the Saudi giga-projects at the heart of the country’s economic transformation programme. The government wants tourism to account for 10 percent of GDP by 2030.

New airlines and airports are being added in an effort to push individual tourist journeys to 150 million per year. 

There were 27 million international visitors in 2023, nearly half of whom were pilgrims.

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