VisitBritain opens Riyadh office to woo big-spending Saudis

VisitBritain has opened an office in the Saudi Arabian capital Riyadh to attract more visitors to the UK – making it the first Western tourism board to establish a presence in the country.

The announcement was made at the residence of the British Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Simon Collis, and includes the appointment of Saudi national Bader Al Mandeel as VisitBritain country representative.

Collis said: “The appointment of Bader Al Mandeel to head VisitBritain’s in-country operations builds on a century of strong trade and cultural relations.

“Every year Britain welcomes more and more Saudis in the UK with thousands visiting on business, for tourism or to study.

“I would strongly encourage Saudis to go and see for themselves everything that the UK has to offer.”

Sally Balcombe (pictured), VisitBritain chief executive, added: “The new office in Riyadh will see us engage more effectively with potential visitors to Britain, converting aspiration to visit into bookings and inspiring more Saudi Arabians to book a trip now to come and explore our nations and regions.

“And with the UK offering excellent value at the moment, particularly for luxury goods, it is a great time to come to Britain.”

The appointment follows the development of a partnership with Al Tayyar Travel Group Holding Company which includes a campaign to promote London, Manchester and Edinburgh.

The campaign will offer summer family travel packages to the UK and will offer Saudi travellers an exclusive upgrade to their visa processing through UK Visa and Immigration.

As of the end of January 2017, Britain was 14% cheaper for visitors from Saudi Arabia compared with the same month in 2016.

Visitors from Saudi Arabia are some of the UK’s highest spenders, spending on average £3,769 per visit, more than six times the average for all markets.

They also stay longer than other international visitors with an average length of stay of 18 nights, compared to an average of eight nights for all markets.

Saudi Arabian visitors are interested in luxury shopping, with more than 60% likely to have shopped at an outlet or department store during their visit.

Saudi Arabia is one of Britain’s top 10 most valuable inbound visitor markets with spend forecast to reach £772 million by 2020.

In 2015, there were 147,000 inbound visits from Saudi Arabia to the UK, with visitors spending £556 million.