JEDDAH – Tourism has become a growing industry with more and more people embarking on different world locations to tread the lovely and exotic path of all the supra mundane and worldly locales. Last year the tourism sector attracted over 900 million people worldwide, highest in history.
When the world is traveling how could Saudis be left behind? About four million Saudis travel abroad for tourism every year. This is despite the fact that the tourism sector in the Kingdom has vastly opened up in recent years and Saudi Arabia itself has a vast repertoire of both religious and cultural places. Even though the Kingdom has opened up new vistas in domestic tourism sector and all efforts are being exerted to attract tourists from across the globe, many Saudis, amazingly, still prefer to go abroad. This trend throws up many an unanswered question: How a Saudi, who is sometimes overburdened with debts, travels for tourism overseas? Is he forced to take loans to respond to his family’s keenness to travel abroad? Has traveling abroad some connotations with the Saudi culture or tradition? Or is it just a show off and follow others even if the family cannot afford the exorbitant cost of travel? What is preventing these millions who are rushing to destinations overseas from spending their summer vacation within the Kingdom’s summer resorts?
Many questions posed to travelers and those in charge of travel and tourism showed different views, Okaz reported.
Saleh Al-Amri said he made his reservations quite early and bought his air tickets to avoid last minute overcrowding on international flights. He said he was traveling with his family to Turkey and Syria. To secure the amounts needed, he sold some of his shares in investment funds. And this is his annual routine.
Muhammad Hasan Al-Amri, a Saudi youth, said he was traveling to Malaysia this year with several of his friends. He said during the past years they visited Egypt, Dubai and Lebanon. As to how he was able to finance his journey, he said he borrowed SR10,000 from a friend.
As to why he preferred to go overseas, Saleh Al-Amri said domestic tourism is devoid of activities that meet the family’s interests. He said domestic tourism is in need for a lot more. “Despite the fact that the Kingdom has beautiful tourist areas, they have not been exploited ideally till now,” he said.
Young Saudi men have a set of grievances. “We cannot enjoy ourselves as all parks and recreation centers are reserved for families only. On the contrary, tourism overseas is open to all. One can go to shops, parks and many other places. There are no restrictions or barriers,” said Muhammad Al-Amri, a Saudi student. Sultan Al-Dhiyabi said the Kingdom’s tourist areas lack tourism programs and these are restricted to some cities.
Khalid Al-Qahtani said he rented an apartment abroad for SR4,000 for 25 days whereas a chalet in Asir’s Al-Sawdah Area will cost SR,1500–3,000 per night. He stressed that to encourage domestic tourism the rents of chalets and furnished apartments must be cut to attract more visitors. Hashim Muhammad Al-Shareef feels that more hotels are needed in the Kingdom’s southern regions. For example, in Abha there are just three good hotels, he said.
Saad Oweidha from the Eastern Province complained about lack of cleanliness in some services by several facilities.
Despite steep increase in prices of essential commodities, Saudi families prefer to travel abroad even if they have to take loans from banks or from other sources. Al-Adham Khalid Al-Saleem, manager of a bank in Hail, said their bank has started offering credit cards on installment of SR300 per month.
Abdullah Al-Dhahiri, manager of Riyadh Bank in Tabuk, said 95 percent of citizens take loans to travel overseas or within the Kingdom. Most of the bank loans are in the form of credit cards that allow post-paid instant purchase irrespective of the commitments on the client.
Hanan Al-Shamrani, from the Client Services Section of a local bank in Jeddah, said demand for credit cards increases tremendously during the summer season. – Okaz