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Living la vida Local—Domestic tourism is here to stay

Living la vida Local—Domestic tourism is here to stay

Saudi Arabia is toying with the idea of local tourism. Precious de Leon wonders if a strong committed shift towards interregional can work on the UAE’s lukewarm tourism sector.

August 14, 2011 12:49 by

Laugh or grimace as you may every time you hear the word ‘staycation’ but it’s here to, erm, stay. It’s even crossed the borders of Saudi Arabia where an official from the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry (JCCI) has reported that domestic tourism makes up 7.5 percent of the Kingdom’s GDP.

The tourism sector is expected to become one of the most important sources of revenue and is expected to generate more than SR40 billion in the future.

Of course the less than 10 percent of a GDP it currently contributes isn’t really much to brag about. But the decision to focus strongly on encouraging Saudis to visit different cities across the Kingdom and entice GCC residents to visit is a refreshing and, there Kipp say, pragmatic move.

The country’s Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiques (SCTA) has made previous attempts to expand beyond the religious tourism with lukewarm results, from making it easier for single ladies to enter the Kingdom to its more recent move to position itself as a family-friendly tourist destination.

The move shows coming to terms that the country has, in so softer words, a unique set of conditions that sets it apart from any tourist destination. It’s good to see that there is an understanding of the best kind of positioning it can develop.


It’s a small stretch then to start thinking about whether the UAE could do well to focus on interregional tourism, as well. Of course Saudi Arabia is a large enough country, like the US, India and China and would be able to garner enough business from its own citizens visiting other cities in the country. The UAE, on the other hand, has a smaller geography and would need the traffic from at least within the GCC if not the wider Middle East to sustain its tourism sector. But it is a thought.

It’s hard to dismiss this thought considering that SCTA has seen interregional tourism as a new avenue to push its Saudisation agenda. In 2010, the tourism sector created 490,000 jobs and SCTA confirmed 130,000 Saudis joined the tourism sector that year.

The increased footfall has also created a knock-on effect to other sectors including short haul aviation, hospitality and retail. SCTA reports tourists spent an average SR268million in 2010 compared to SR168million in the previous year. So it looks like it’s also a win-win situation.

How many of us have actually made the effort to tour the seven emirates, anyway?

As tourism in the UAE has always become a joint effort with the government (Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority and the Dubai Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing, for example) and the private sector, there is the question  of whether the potential tourism jobs are going to readily occupied by Emirati recruits, most of whom…

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