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Lionel Messi Advert Targets Traveler ‘Preconceptions’



In Saudi Arabia’s newest tourism marketing campaign, Argentine soccer star Lionel Messi goals to bust the stereotypes world vacationers could have in regards to the kingdom. The marketing campaign emphasizes that Saudi Arabia has so much to supply and is a welcoming vacation spot, mentioned Fahd Hamidaddin, CEO of the Saudi Tourism Authority.

Saudi has been hyperfocused on reducing its dependence on oil and diversifying its economic system. Over the following 10 years, the nation plans to speculate $1 trillion in its tourism sector and desires to turn out to be a world vacationer vacation spot.


Hamidaddin spoke with Skift on the ITB Berlin journey commerce present final week about progress from European vacationers, how the $25 million Messi advertising and marketing marketing campaign carried out, the dominion’s dependence on tour operators, and extra.

This interview has been edited for readability and size.

Progress in Tourism to Saudi Arabia

Skift: How a lot has tourism to Saudi grown over the previous couple of years? How a lot has it grown from Europe?


Hamidaddin: Within the grand scheme of issues, Saudi is just rising in all markets, all its new locations. And we’re not ranging from scratch. Saudi Arabia receives plenty of inbound vacationers for non secular journey to Mecca and Medina, so we’re beginning on a excessive base. We have now plenty of inbound for enterprise journey. We have now plenty of inbound for visits, family and friends.

With a really excessive base, going on the highest pace of progress 5 years in a row, that’s positively testomony.

We had set a goal of 100 million visits by 2030. Fortunately, we exceeded that so much earlier. Now now we have a brand new goal, 150 million by 2030. [Saudi Arabia’s tourism minister has previously said that would break down as 80 million domestic travelers and 70 million from international destinations.


From Europe, we grew by 67% last year. [Saudi welcomed over 1 million European travelers, officials told Skift. About 775,000 visitors came for leisure.]

Final 12 months, we launched round 20 routes [by air]. This 12 months we’re launching an extra 10 routes to Europe.

Our locations are opening one resort after the opposite on a weekly foundation. There’s a brand new opening each week in numerous cities in Saudi. So we’re very bullish with regards to funding.


And we will’t be however bullish in producing demand, that means, should you’re doing all the provision and also you’re investing $800 billion in creating, providing and growing locations, you need to be sure you equally spend money on demand.

The Lionel Messi Marketing campaign

Skift: Saudi Arabia lately launched a “Go Past What You Assume” tourism marketing campaign that includes Lionel Messi. What struck me was how express the marketing campaign was. Messi actually kicked the ball at some criticisms I’ve heard about Saudi Arabia.

Hamidaddin: It’s true. Mark Twain mentioned journey is deadly for prejudice, and that was the start line. And we talked to UN tourism, and so they launched the Tourism Opens Minds marketing campaign. We wished to collaborate and do the identical. 


This can be a dialog that the world wants. It’s not simply Saudi. Prejudice and preconceptions can be found about so many locations. Selling new locations instantly comes with sure perceptions. 

Saudi launched this marketing campaign and audiences appreciated it. Whereas the finer outcomes haven’t been measured, the preliminary readings inform us that this has carried out higher than all of the campaigns that we shaped. We’ve launched practically 10. Folks watched that marketing campaign to the tip. The view-to-completion fee was 40% greater than one of the best different marketing campaign that we did.

There can be new campaigns and new stars, new stars as a result of daily we get a brand new star shifting into Saudi. Messi didn’t transfer, however others did. Let’s hear from the insiders that truly made it.


Skift: How does the Lionel Messi advert match into your total advertising and marketing technique?

Hamidaddin: We have to ensure that individuals are conscious, enthusiastic about our providing, and comforted about what the truth is about Saudi.

All these preconceptions that folks could have had, corresponding to that perhaps ladies wouldn’t really feel secure being alone. We are able to reply by noting, for instance, InsureMyTrip’s index, which comes out of India, rated the protection of locations for all their vacationers and commerce companions. They included Saudi of their index final 12 months, and we scored in one in every of our cities, the most secure metropolis for girls, for girls alone after midnight. 


We’ve been telling the world that that is the house of the Arabian Wonders, from UNESCO heritage websites to civilizations which have handed by this land. 

We’re additionally constructing plenty of activations and occasions like no different place on the planet. Final 12 months, we had 11,000 occasions executed.

We’re launching our prime providing on the Pink Sea. “Solar and sea” is likely one of the greatest attraction magnets for Europe, and Saudi goes massive on that now, however it’s now not speak. It’s a actuality. Pink Sea International launched the St. Regis Resort, the Six Senses Resort, and one other Ritz-Carlton is opening. Subsequent 12 months, we’re anticipating eight extra resorts. Sindalah in NEOM is launching its first island. It’s going to be second to none. 

Saudi Tourism Authority CEO: Fahd Hamidaddin

Easy methods to Entice U.S. Vacationers

Skift: What do you assume can have the largest draw on journey from the U.S.?

Hamidaddin: The longer the gap, the extra segmented it’s good to be.

Folks normally fly lengthy distances for solar and sea, particularly romantic getaways or cultural exploration. Arabia has plenty of mystique.

Disney is a machine that has been speaking about Aladdin and the land of Arabia, and this land is right here. Lawrence Arabia got here as a film. And so Arabia does land with a constructive intrigue and mystic enchantment to the American segments.


And we’ve been seeing curiosity, particularly amongst luxurious vacationers and cultural vacationers. With our solar and sea providing increasing, I’ll see “solar and sea” changing into most likely one in every of our greatest drivers of journey from the U.S.

The Significance of Journey Companions

Skift: What are you doing to usher in worldwide tour operators?

Hamidaddin: We couldn’t have grown with out our journey companions. Often, new locations rely closely on journey companions as a result of, till a vacation spot may be very well-known and folks advocate it to at least one one other, individuals received’t essentially simply guide and leap. They want their excursions to be pre-planned and organized with journey businesses and teams.


We develop itineraries, and most of our enterprise in new growing markets like Europe, America, and Asia are occurring by our companions.

Our companions have totally different segments. Some are particular person vacationers, and a few are group vacationers.  This 12 months for the primary time,  we launched our transportation map, which takes connectivity to the following stage. It’s air connectivity, it’s floor transport for teams and people. And we’re introducing our options and our companions on transportation for our journey brokers all over the world as a result of there’s excessive demand now for teams.

For instance, we simply partnered with an organization referred to as Shift Transit. Shift, has an asset pool of automobiles that they supply all of the vacation spot administration corporations [DMCs] by way of buses, minivans, small automobiles, four-by-fours, you title it, simply to produce the DMCs that don’t have these property at any cut-off date to cater for his or her vacationers, be it people, households, or teams.


Sports activities and Music as Progress Drivers

Skift: Shed some colour in your pageant and occasion calendar.

Hamidaddin: We’re sports activities as a socioeconomic engine from alternatives to wealth to a sector that will turn out to be an engine of progress for the nation. Every thing is coming from a large strategic route to unlock the alternatives and the roles and the careers and positively the financial stimulation.

Sports activities are anticipated to contribute 1.5% to our complete GDP. And so it’s critical, particularly in a rustic that has at all times been depending on oil. 1.5% is important. Now, with that comes a improvement of golf equipment internet hosting worldwide occasions, and we’ve put a bid for the World Cup, and fingers crossed, we’ll win it.


We had the Method One Grand Prix. Two months in the past, we launched with Rafael Nadal, the Nadal Tennis Academy, once more to drive aspiration to this sector. We’ve been internet hosting plenty of boxing. Matches by no means completed anyplace on the planet at the moment are happening in Saudi. NEOM is now growing our ski vacation spot and has already been granted the best to host the Asian Winter Video games in ’29. 

So for golf, we had the LIV golf and the partnership with the PGA tour. That aggressive dedication that now we have put to ardour gamers within the house of golf tells you that this isn’t random. 

We’re very happy with our unique music and folklore dance, and we’re investing closely in reviving that. We’re internet hosting worldwide live shows and music associations and institutes to come back and carry out. As we speak in ITB, we introduced the primary Saudi ladies feminine dance teams.


We pair Saudi orchestras with different worldwide orchestras, or we merely invite worldwide DJs and we combine them with native abilities on the rise. The most important EDM music pageant, the MDLBeast, much like TomorrowLand. 

SoundStorm is the biggest EDM pageant that occurs on the planet with regards to numbers. Final 12 months we had 630,000 attendees. It’s a metropolis, and it’s a pageant that runs for 3 days in a row.

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