By Joud Al-Amri
JEDDAH — The Arab Spring which has swept through the Middle East has had its repercussions on tourism in several countries of the region that had been the favorite destinations of visitors from the Gulf countries. As a result, Saudis who wish to spend their vacations abroad have limited options this summer.
The United Arab Emirates is seeing an influx of Saudi tourists who otherwise used to spend their vacations in Syria, Egypt or Lebanon. Dubai is the number one destination for Saudis followed by Turkey, Europe, Malaysia and east Asian countries, according to a source with Saudi Arabian Airlines.
Although least affected by the ongoing turmoil in the country, the Egyptian city of Sharm El-Sheikh did not have is usual share of Saudi tourists this year. According to a travel agent in Jeddah, European cities, followed by Dubai, Istanbul and Kuala Lumpur, are the preferred destinations of most travelers from the Kingdom. The hot weather of Dubai and the exorbitant prices in Istanbul did not affect their vacation plans in these two cities.
Saudi tourist Bedour Ali said she and her daughters like to visit Lebanon as often as possible because they enjoy spending time in Beirut, even though it is not far from the regional flashpoints. Ali, however, says her family has got used to the political climate of Lebanon, and they are planning to spend their vacation in Beirut.
Awadh Al-Zahrani asked his family to choose between Paris and Dubai because he was not ready to jeopardize their safety by going to any other place.
Mona Jaber likes to enjoy the lovely weather of Lebanon but has changed her mind due to the unstable political situation in the country. She is visiting Dubai instead and will have to put up with the hot weather there. Jaber sees the Emirati city as a nice and clean place where people can enjoy their vacation.
Salim Shami and his family will not spend their vacation in Lebanon or Egypt this year because the political situation tends to be precarious. They will go to Europe or Turkey instead.
Waleed Al-Mahdi, who works in a travel agency in Jeddah, put the tourists’ preferred destinations in the following order: Europe, the UAE, Malaysia, Turkey and the United States.
“These countries are safe and this is what Saudi tourists are looking for,” Al-Mahdi said. “Some families still want to go to Lebanon despite the volatile political situation there. I think most of them have relatives over there and want to visit them,” he added.