Why Saudis travel abroad
Saudi travelers are the prime target of airlines, hotels, credit cards issuing banks, tourism commissions in different countries, and travel agencies. This should not come as a surprise due to the huge number of Saudis leaving the country in the vacation seasons and the huge amount of money they spend during their stay abroad. According to the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage, Saudis spent around SR96.2 billion in their foreign travels in 2015, that is an increase by 39 percent (around SR26.9 billion) compared to the SR 69.3 billion they spent in 2014. These Saudi tourists left the country on 21.5 million flights of different airlines compared to 19.8 million flights in 2014.
Every way you look at it, Saudis cannot wait for the summer vacations in order to travel. The recently formed Entertainment Commission should study this trend very carefully. It should closely study the reasons Saudis choose to leave the country whenever they have a vacation.
We all know that we lack the basic entertainment venues and activities and this was clearly and boldly admitted in the Saudi Vision 2030.
Let’s start with the very basics of entertainment venues, public and theme parks. Needless to say, we have turned our cities into forests of concrete and steal. One can hardly see greenery in our cities. And please note that when I say a public park then I am referring to something of the level of Hyde Park in London or the Central Park in New York, not the 30 by 20 meters grass areas we have within the residential blocks. I do not want to exaggerate and say let’s build parks of the magnitude of those I just mentioned, but at least let’s create spaces in our cities where we can feel that we are away from buildings, cars, and the kind of pressure the modern life have on all of us.
The same goes for theme parks, I am not saying let’s create a Disneyland (although it would be interesting to host the first Disneyland in which Arabic is the first language), but for a country where half the population is young, it is unbelievable that we do not have any decent theme park in any of our cities.
From public places and parks we come to the culturally themed entertainment — cinemas, theaters, museums, and art galleries. Admittedly, we fall way behind in this area. A country as big and diverse as Saudi Arabia with its rich Arabic and Islamic heritage, we lack big museums to showcase our history and the civilizations that grew on our lands (another point Vision 2030 raised). Our families find no other options but to pay for air tickets and accommodation for a couple of days just to watch a movie they were waiting for, or a concert or play they wanted to attend.
The list of things we lack in the industry of entertainment goes on and on, and it certainly goes beyond a mere shopping festival. There is a lot to be done, there are challenges as well as opportunities, but there is hope that entertainment will finally make its way back to our country.
Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Arab News' point of view