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Anyone fancy a trip to Saudi Arabia?
A highly sophisticated PR campaign will be required if the Kingdom is to achieve its ambitious targets on tourism.
March 24, 2010 4:28 by kippreport
Saudi Arabia has set some ambitious – some would say, too ambitious – targets for its tourism industry.
According to a report in Arab News, the Kingdom is seeking to lure 11.4 million foreign tourists every year, a four percent increase on the current number.
The vast majority of visitors to Saudi are religious pilgrims and businessmen (and they are mostly men). But KSA authorities want to boost the number of sightseers, too.
Tough job. Your average non-Muslim tourist perceives Saudi as a place of severe restrictions, full of violent ‘religious police’ and rubber-glove-wearing border guards. No place for a holiday, then.
Of course, this is more than just a ‘perception’. Saudi is not an open society, and its strict interpretation of Islam means that many visitors face a massive culture shock, given that they are not allowed to carry out their daily business in the way they are used to, to put it mildly.
Entry visas to are notoriously tough to obtain; visitors face strict searches and (according to one of Kipp’s readers) frequent racism by airport border guards.
But KSA has a lot going for it. There is the awe-inspiring desert landscape, the relatively cosmopolitan port of Jeddah, the historical sites, and the diving in the Red Sea (which compares favorably to Sharm El Sheikh in Egypt, which as Kipp’s colleague asserts, has “more divers than fish”).
The Kingdom will need an army of PR pros on board to boost its reputation among global non-Muslim travelers. But it may just be worth it.