Saudi tourism push earns significant reach but public sceptical

A campaign to promote Saudi Arabia as a tourism destination using social media stars and content creators has a potential reach of more than 880 million, analysis by Talkwalker has found. Comments under some of the more popular posts highlight the challenge the Kingdom faces to shift perceptions.

The Kingdom has turned to influencers to promote the country’s hotspots as it opened its doors to tourists for the first time in September.

Saudi Arabia’s 2030 Vision includes several luxury resorts and is a bold attempt to transition the country’s economy away from fossil fuels and towards other sectors, including tourism.

Tourism PR experts recently told PRWeek that using influencers to improve its ultra-conservative reputation is a clever way to side-step traditional media outlets and attract young travellers to see the country for themselves.

These moves have been bolstered by traditional advertising across Western countries, including in London.

Talkwalker’s analysis of the past month of activity shows the campaign is at least delivering 'potential reach', if not cut-through.

It found that the #WelcomeToArabia hashtag has been mentioned more than 43,000 times with engagement exceeding 124,000 social media accounts. The potential reach tallied up to 888 million, although in reality only a small fraction of this figure is likely to have engaged with #WelcomeToArabia content.

Here are Talkwalker's top five pieces of content:

1. Mo Vlogs (Engagement: 20,000; potential reach: 460,000)

Twenty-one year old Dubai vlogger, who has over eight million subscribers on YouTube, produced a video that captures the ancient historic places in Saudi Arabia.

2. Reema Bandar Al-Saud (Engagement 6,000; potential reach: 287,000)

Reema is Saudi’s ambassador to the US and shared a short video on Twitter.

3. Fdeet_alnssr (Engagement: 5,700; potential reach: 784,400)

This Saudi-based tweeter posted a video that shows Saudi Arabia is "not just about camels and tents, but a historically and culturally rich country that is now open to the world".

4. Visit Saudi (Engagement: 4,000; potential reach: 8,200)

A tweet from Saudi Arabia’s official tourism account – @VisitSaudiNow – that shows Saudi is no longer just a site for religious visits during festive periods such as Eid.

5. Saudi Press Agency (Engagement 2,800; potential reach 4.4 million)

The Saudi Press Agency tweet breaking news that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is now open to tourists from all over the world thanks to the new tourist e-visas.

Not all of the social media activity received a positive response. A post by Saudi Arabia’s official tourism board shows the challenge it faces in trying to change perceptions.

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