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Saudi tourism takes a hit
Saudi-based travel agents say bookings have declined by 25 percent. They blame the world economic crisis and swine flu pandemic.
July 6, 2009 8:50 by Hasan Hatrash
The economic downturn, the relatively short summer vacation and the swine flu pandemic are the factors one Jeddah-based travel agent said have caused a 25 percent decline in bookings compared to last year.
“The rates are competitive this year compared to last year, but still the demand is less than expected,” said Naif Al Faqeeh, CEO of Departure Point Travel and Tourism Company.
The overlap of the summer break with Ramadan, a stay-at-home holiday for many, has also caused Saudi travelers to plan shorter vacations inside the country. Others are likely to be planning shorter trips abroad after Ramadan in the weeks before school starts.
“People might spend Ramadan and the first days of Eid (inside the Kingdom) and then take a few weeks at an international destination before the start of school,” said Al Faqeeh, adding that the swine flu is also encouraging Saudis to stay at home.
Al Faqeeh said there has been a tendency toward cheaper countries this year, such as Malaysia, Egypt and Turkey. European destinations were in high demand earlier this year when the Saudi Arabian Airlines was offering low-priced fares.
Bookings are robust, but “very few” have confirmed their travel, said Al Faqeeh. He speculated that some may be waiting to see how the global swine flu outbreak progresses.
The Kingdom’s tourism officials have been aiming to encourage Saudis to travel within the country to help spur a stronger domestic tourism market.
Bandar Salem of Saudi Sindbad Domestic Tourism said domestic tourism still has a long way to go. “Prices of hotels are high and some facilities are not available,” he said.
He explained demand would pick up in the coming years because of the ongoing development and tourism investments: “Until the infrastructure is ready, people would still prefer traveling abroad.”
First seen in Arab News.