Lionel Messi Champions Saudi Arabia’s New Tourism Drive: "Go Beyond What You Think"

By Ivan PetrenkoJan 28, 2024 07:13 AMNews
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Masjid Al-Nabawi in sunrise
Masjid Al-Nabawi in sunrise. Source: unsplash

Lionel Messi, the renowned football icon, is spearheading a new campaign for Saudi Arabia, designed to challenge and transform global perceptions. The campaign, titled "Go Beyond What You Think," aims to shatter "outdated stereotypes" and overcome the "walls" of misconception surrounding the Middle Eastern country. This initiative, rooted in the transformative essence of travel, follows Messi's visit to Diriyah, Saudi Arabia, in May last year, a journey he shared on social media as part of his promotional duties with the country’s tourism authority.

Expanding Reach Across Continents

The "Saudi, Welcome to Arabia" brand, under which this campaign falls, is set to be launched across key markets, including Europe, India, and China, over a three-month period. The campaign's reach extends through television, social media, and digital platforms. According to the tourism board, the campaign is based on consumer insights that highlight prevalent misconceptions about Saudi Arabia. It invites global audiences to witness the vibrant cultural metamorphosis occurring within the nation.

Messi’s Role and Appeal

Messi's association with Visit Saudi, a paid partnership, involves promoting the campaign through his Instagram account. He invites those who have visited Saudi Arabia to share their experiences and encourages others to explore the country. This effort is in line with Saudi Tourism's objective to broaden perspectives and foster cultural understanding through tourism. It also aligns with the "Tourism Opens Minds" initiative, a part of the newly rebranded UN Tourism agenda.

The Campaign Video: A Glimpse into Saudi’s Diversity

The promotional video, featuring Messi, showcases the diverse landscapes of Saudi Arabia. From the Red Sea to the snow-covered terrain of Tabuk, the video captures the essence of the nation’s natural beauty. It highlights various attractions like the Diriyah E-Prix, AlUla’s hot air balloon flights, and the MDL Beast music events. The video also celebrates notable Saudi figures, including the Saudi Women’s National football team, DJ Cosmicat, and Rayyanah Barnawi, the first Saudi woman astronaut.

Anticipation for Messi’s Return

The campaign's launch is timed ahead of Messi's return to Saudi Arabia for two matches with his current club, Inter Miami, against Al Hilal on January 29 and Al Nassr on February 1.

Saudi Arabia’s Tourism Vision 2030

Saudi Arabia is on a mission to reinvent itself as a tourism and leisure hub by 2030. The plan includes attracting 150 million tourists annually and having tourism contribute 10% to the national economy. This vision involves substantial investments in "giga-projects" across deserts, mountains, and waterfronts. The country has also relaxed entry norms, introducing the eVisa program for 63 countries and regions, a free 96-hour stopover visa, and special visas for GCC residents.

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