JEDDAH — While a record number of Saudi tourists spent their summer vacation abroad this year, an equally large number opted to stay in the Kingdom with Jeddah being the No. 1 choice. However, even though domestic tourism has increased, most tourists said services in the Kingdom need to be improved.
The volume of spending on domestic tourism increased 13.5 percent from 2011 and reached SR44.5 billion, according to statistics issued by the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA). The same report stated that 23.36 million tourists spent SR35.845 billion in 2011. Khalid Al-Amoudi, a consultant at the SCTA, expected the volume of spending on overseas tourism to reach $20 billion this year, compared to $12 billion last year.
Basma Al-Ghamdi, who is visiting Jeddah from Khamis Mushayt, said everything in the city was overpriced.
“My family could only find a small apartment that cost SR400 a day! We were surprised to discover that the prices at entertainment venues were just as high,” she said.
Al-Ghamdi said after spending a week in Jeddah, her family had spent most of their vacation budget and decided to stay in the apartment and not go out.
“We didn’t want to spend more and borrow money at a time when Ramadan is fast approaching,” she added.
Due to development projects being implemented in Jeddah and along the Corniche, a large portion of which has been blocked for many months, most families prefer to go out to the Red Sea in the early mornings and spend the rest of the day at malls away from the crowds that gather on the seaside in the evenings.
Abdullah Amer who hails from Makkah did just that: he took his family during the early part of the morning to the sea-side and then spent the rest of the day inside a mall. Abdullah is unhappy about the limited activities for summer visitors and wonders why the responsible authorities do not provide attractive tourist packages with reasonable prices to those who want to spend their vacations in Jeddah.
Dubai, Malaysia, Indonesia and Turkey were among the preferred destinations for middle-income tourists.
Jordan was also a destination preferred by some Saudis who were attracted by its resorts, and because of its proximity to the Kingdom, according to a manager of a travel agency.