RIYADH — The fourth session of the Saudi Travel and Tourism Investment Market titled “The effect of applying regulations on the sector of tourist accommodation” called for better awareness programs for owners of furnished apartments on their obligations toward customers. Key among them was the requirement to improve their premises. Other subjects covered included the need for insurance against risks.
The issues were raised due to the ever-increasing number of unlicensed units which do not meet the conditions set by the government. Some buildings have no parking facilities, for example.
Idris Al-Eid, a businessman, says Eastern Province’s status as one of the largest tourist regions must be protected. “The general consensus among investors is that all unlicensed units in EP, about 259 in number, should be forced to register with the authorities,” he said.
“By increasing the standard of safety and amenities, tourists will be guaranteed a more positive experience, and hence it is more likely they will return in the future,” he added.
Wael Sindi, an investor in the tourism sector, says he is deeply worried by the fact that his building has never been visited by any official from the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA).
According to him, this laissez-faire approach smacks of a complete lack of control. During summer, he is forced to reduce his prices to compete with the unlicensed units in spite of the clear differences in quality.
Isaam Al-Ajlan, another investor, called for a more active role by the SCTA. “There should be one set of rules for everybody,” he said.
Abdullah Al-Qahtani, head of the tourism committee in the Eastern Province Chamber of Commerce, advises tourists to stay away from unlicensed units.
Nonetheless, he says, the committee can only take a neutral stance as it represents all parties in the sector.
While the committee does all it can to help investors secure licenses for their properties, Al-Qahtani said many buildings were constructed a long time ago and as such lack the required specifications. — SG