Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage uses hot springs to boost investment in medical tourism

Ghumaiga village is known for its hot springs, where many patients with skin-related illnesses travel to the village from across the Kingdom to benefit from the therapeutic features of its water. (Photo courtesy: Al Watan)
Updated 10 January 2018

Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage uses hot springs to boost investment in medical tourism

JEDDAH: The Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage (SCTH) has been pushing businesspeople to invest in medical tourism that can boost the local tourism sector.
The SCTH has established a number of facilities around the places where geothermal waters flow, with the aim of attracting investors to establish spas in more than five areas in the Kingdom.
The SCTH’s deputy president for programs and products, Abdullah Al-Murshid, told Arab News that the historical Ain Najm in Al-Ahsa is one of the most prominent touristic sites in the Kingdom.
“With its hot sulfuric water, It has long been a tourist attraction,” he said. For a long time it has been known as a place where pilgrims can gather before heading to Makkah.
As part of its plan to pave the way for investment in touristic sites, the SCTH established public facilities around the geothermal waters of Al-Dobdobah well in the Khasara area in the Eastern Province, about 50km from Hafr Al-Battin on the way to Kuwait.
“It is an artesian well that was dug 30 years ago and its sulfur-containing water flows from a depth of 2,710 meters. Its temperature is 65C and it can be made cooler by adding normal water. Some people want to use mineral water to treat rheumatism and skin diseases,” Al-Murshid said.
With 69C water, Wadi Al-Khalab hot water springs, 137m above sea level, are even hotter. The spring is some 70km southeast of Jazan province. “We have prepared the site to provide a therapeutic recreational resort that can attract tourists seeking treatment,” he added.
Some 40km south of Al-Qunfodha city in Makkah province, Ghumaiga village is known for its hot springs.
Many patients with skin-related illnesses travel to the village from across the Kingdom to benefit from the therapeutic features of its water.
There are also famous hot springs in the village of Tharban, some 100km south of Al-Mikhwah.
The water from these springs is chemically similar to those in the US, Japan, Russia, Turkey, New Zealand and East Africa.
“Patients usually associate hot springs and mud from the Dead Sea with the treatment of psoriasis. They believe these things can be a remedy for their skin problems,” Marwa Ibrahim, a specialist dermatologist, told Arab News.
The dermatologist said hot springs and Dead Sea mud are rich in minerals, salts and other materials. “These ingredients can make skin patients feel they have improved, but these have not yet been scientifically proven to be a remedy,” Ibrahim said.

Startup of the Week: Wayakit, the biotech firm helping travelers beat odors and stains

Updated 10 December 2019

Startup of the Week: Wayakit, the biotech firm helping travelers beat odors and stains

  • Wayakit leaves the clothes clean and fresh again

JEDDAH: Wayakit is a biotechnology start-up incubated by King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST).

KAUST Ph.D students Sandra Medina and Luisa Javier are avid travelers who have come up with a pocket-sized product that deals with both odors and stains on fabrics, leaving the cloths clean and fresh again.

Wayakit is also gentler on fabrics because traditional laundry eventually damages them, said Javier, who first moved to Saudi Arabia from Mexico ten years ago.

Her business partner, Sandra Medina, who came from Colombia to study at KAUST, explained to Arab News how Wayakit works. “You just spray the smelly area twice and you’re good to go. In the case of stains, you spray twice and then pat dry it with a tissue and it will disappear,” she said.

The idea for the product came during a trip for a conference two years ago when the travelers realized their luggage was lost “We had to present with our dirty, seven-hours’ flight clothes,” Javier told Arab News.

“We started looking into the possibility then, because there’s not a proper solution to doing laundry while traveling,” she said.


They decided they needed to come up with a product that was not pricey, was easy to carry, and did the job by removing stains and bad odors “on-the-go.”



The duo began by interviewing more than 100 travelers of 23 different nationalities to find out if this was a common issue that travelers struggled with.


“From the Entrepreneurship Center at KAUST, we learned the importance of listening first to the customers before designing any product,” said Medina. From these interviews, Wayakit team got the product requirements and then moved into the lab to start working on the formulation of Wayakit. “The amazing facilities and labs in KAUST helped us to speed up the creation of our first prototype. After this, the same KAUST community was the people who first tried Wayakit and gave us feedback. “In KAUST we do not only have state-of-the-art labs, but also a whole entrepreneurial ecosystem,” Medina added.

Wayakit is different from its competitors in that it contains no toxic chemicals, and covers a broader spectrum in covering stains — it is two products in one. It also contains anti-bacterial properties, acting as a sanitizer that “removes all the stains that occur on a day-to-day basis as well as being an odor remover,” Javier said.

The pair went for a biotechnology-based formula that excluded the usage of oxidizers and focused on more organic compounds. “Even the anti-bacterial properties are not toxic as we incorporated these in an environmentally friendly formulation,” she said.

The Wayakit founders had to rigorously test their product, dealing with different types of sweat and stains to perfect their spray. “We had to give testers to travelers to try it out and had to listen to their feedback, then went back to the lab to improve it, in order to make sure the product was as promised.”

Medina said KAUST’s mentorship had also helped their company to develop. “KAUST for us is a catalyst of entrepreneurship and has given us a lot of room to grow our start-up Wayakit,” she said.

KAUST helped Wayakit by giving the advice and support from the start. From entrepreneurial courses to teaching the concepts of building a brand, KAUST encouraged Wayakit to grow from a scientific outlook and helped the founders to better understand the customer.

“As foreigners, it was difficult for us to understand the logistics and procurement of shipping and importing here in Saudi Arabia. KAUST has helped us to face that hurdle in order to be able to reach all our clients in the MENA region and worldwide,” Medina said. “Beyond helping travellers, our mission is to change the way how laundry is commonly done. We found a way to effectively wash clothes reducing water and energy consumption,” Javier said. 

Wayakit has recently began selling in Jeddah’s Homegrown Market, chosen because it is “a Middle Eastern brand store with unique ambience,” said Medina.