Saudi Arabia – Determining Market Demand for Priority Cultural Heritage Projects Saudi Arabia


As part of its Vision 2030 and National Transformation Plan (NTP), the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has been actively pursuing economic diversification to grow and develop the country beyond its longtime dependence on petroleum. Tourism, especially cultural tourism, has been identified as a principal means of achieving this. However, among the hundreds, if not thousands, of historical and cultural heritage sites, further investment and development are needed for these sites to attract visitors.

Scott Wayne was commissioned by the World Bank to conduct a market assessment of Priority Cultural Tourism Projects under the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques Cultural Heritage Program. He conducted research and analysis to identify market and spending potential of priority projects to enable market demand-based rankings, which could then be used for developing a more precisely targeted marketing and investment strategy. Much of the research was extrapolated from the work of “MAS,” the tourism intelligence center of the Ministry of Tourism.


The following market segments were analyzed:

  • Domestic Saudi market
  • Domestic expatriate resident market
  • Hajj and Umrah markets
  • The international inbound leisure visitor

Social media data was also reviewed to help determine market demand and potential investment priorities. At the time of this research in 2017, KSA had the seventh highest social media penetration rate in the world, especially Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter. The number of Facebook users alone grew 16 percent from 2014 to 2017 in KSA. As destinations around the world demonstrate, more precisely targeted marketing and advertising campaigns can be conducted online through these channels. Interest levels resulting from campaigns for the above attractions and others can be tested and measured quickly, thus generating useful and immediate data for marketing and investment plans.

We conducted social media tests using Google Adword’s Keyword Tools and Facebook Insights, as well as data from the other channels, in an attempt to measure current Saudi interest in culture, cultural heritage, and museums and thus assist with the rankings. Aside from the notable result mentioned above of 1 million Saudis expressing an interest in culture, other results showed less than 100,000 Saudis expressing an explicit interest in more specific areas of culture. This is not surprising since the tools are better at measuring reactions to keywords that are included as part of marketing campaigns than forecasting potential interest. In the absence of such campaigns, the results are more limited. Campaigns are needed to more accurately measure market demand through these channels.