MSC Cruises is predicting strong domestic interest in its new cruise itineraries sailing in the Red Sea from Jeddah, with up to half of passengers expected to be from the country.
Saudi Arabians are a key market sector being targeted by MSC Cruises for its upcoming cruise season out of Jeddah, reports Arab News.
Saudi Arabia is different to other GCC countries in that Saudi Arabians are more interested in domestic holidays than their neighbours, such as the UAE, which has a huge inbound fly-cruise market, but its domestic market prefers to cruise in Europe and the Caribbean.
This was recently shown in the strong performance of Saudi Arabia’s domestic tourism industry during the pandemic, which prevented the country allowing international tourists to visit.
For these reasons, MSC Cruises expects 50% of passengers to be Saudi Arabian, while the remainder will be international, according to Achille Staiano, Vice President of Global Sales at MSC Cruises.
Staiano said prices for Saudi Arabians have yet to be announced, but are likely to be on-par with the prices announced for the global market. A Red Sea itinerary aboard MSC Magnifica currently goes for $1,315.
The 7-night roundtrip cruises from Jeddah will visit the Saudi ports of Al-Wajh and Yanbu as well as Aqaba for Petra in Jordan and Safaga for Luxor in Egypt.
MSC Magnifica is the first cruise ship in the world to homeport in Saudi Arabia, and her fleet mate MSC Virtuosa will be the first cruise ship to call in Saudi Arabia on international cruises during her Dubai homeporting season.
MSC Virtuosa will cruise roundtrip in the Arabian Gulf from Dubai between December and March, visiting Abu Dhabi, Muscat, Sir Bani Yas Island, Khasab and Dammam in Saudi Arabia on alternating itineraries.
Saudi Arabia’s emergence as a cruise destination and cruise source market comes amid a major investment in tourism as part of the government’s economic diversification efforts.
The country’s soverign wealth fund, the Public Investment Fund (PIF) launched Cruise Saudi in January of this year to develop a cruise industry in the Kingdom and help create more than 50,000 jobs in the tourism industry through 2035.
It will develop ports and terminals in several Saudi cities to give access to Saudi heritage and culture, including three of the five UNESCO World Heritage sites that are near the coast.
MSC said it is well prepared for the return of global tourists with health and safety protocols tailored to the current situation in place, but is not currently making vaccines a mandatory condition of travel.