‘Saudi Summer’ plan aims to kick-start Kingdom’s tourism industry

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Updated 26 June 2020

‘Saudi Summer’ plan aims to kick-start Kingdom’s tourism industry

  • As lockdown is relaxed, ministry launches initiative to boost domestic tourism using the slogan ‘tanaffas,’ or ‘breathe’

RIYADH: In an effort to kick-start tourist activity as the Kingdom begins to emerge from the coronavirus lockdown, the Saudi Ministry of Tourism is launching a “Saudi Summer” initiative with the slogan “tanaffas,” which is Arabic for breathe.
The plans for the initiative, which aims to promote domestic tourism, were discussed during a virtual press conference on Wednesday. They include the implementation of strict safety protocols to protect tourists.
Tourism Minister Ahmed Al-Khateeb announced the campaign in a virtual press conference on Wednesday.
“Saudi Summer comes as a wonderful opportunity to discover multiple tourist destinations in Saudi Arabia, alongside its historical, natural and cultural treasures,” he said. “The campaign also contributes to enhancing efforts by the Ministry of Tourism to revive the tourism sector, which was most affected by the repercussions of the COVID-19 crisis.”
He also said that the ministry is working on a series of reforms in a number of sectors to improve the tourism options available to people within the country.
“We are working toward political reforms, social reforms and economic reforms,” he said, adding that a committee of ministers responsible for these sectors will meet four times a year to minimize the obstacles to achieving the tourism goals.
“The amount of work that is currently being done is humongous, and we will begin to reap the benefits of this labor within two or three years,” Al-Khateeb said.
Fahad Hamidaddin, the chief of investment, strategy and tourism marketing, said the ministry carried out an extensive survey on tourism about a month ago.

This provided crucial information that is being used to decide the best course of action to support the tourism industry as the coronavirus lockdown is relaxed and life gradually begins to return to normal in the Kingdom.
“When we polled people on whether or not they wanted to leave the Kingdom for the summer, 81 percent replied in the negative, despite the fact that about 63 percent of them wanted to go out and have fun,” said Hamidaddin.
According to the same survey, 57 percent of Saudi residents were concerned about traveling on holiday by plane, but 85 percent were still planning to take a break of around 10 days this year. The survey also showed that 78 percent were curious about exploring their own country.
“A lot of tourism companies were afraid of the impact the COVID-19 pandemic would have on their business. When we showed them the data, we were able to get them on board with our plans and further one of our ultimate goals, which is to empower local businesses in the industry.

“We found that people are looking for coastlines (and) mountain ranges (to visit), and passed this sort of information on to local tourism companies.
“The pandemic has left people feeling stifled. Our role is to turn that feeling into something that could help them relax. People just want to breathe right now,” he added, which provided the inspiration for the Saudi Summer slogan.
From Jun. 25 to Sept. 30, the campaign is promoting 10 domestic destinations: Jeddah and the King Abdullah Economic City, Abha, Tabuk, Alkhobar, Dammam and Ahsa, Baha, Taif, Yanbu and Umluj, and Riyadh.
The ministry hopes that the diversity of these locations, which between them offer fertile valleys, quiet beaches, dense forests, cool climates, mountains, vibrant cities, historic villages and more, will encourage travelers to visit multiple destinations and take advantage of the different packages and activities available.
While foreign travel is still on hold because of the global pandemic, domestic flights resumed in Saudi Arabia at the beginning of this month. However, COVID-19 remains a serious threat and therefore safety protocols must be strictly followed.

Mohammed Al-Modhayan, a marketing adviser to the ministry, said that all possible precautions are being taken to ensure the safety of Saudi citizens and residents traveling within the Kingdom.
“The protocols in place have been set in accordance with guidance and approval from the Ministry of Health, and executed by the Ministry of Tourism, which is also responsible for providing licenses to companies such as hotels and tourist attractions,” he said.
“Any of those companies will need to follow said guidelines to obtain and retain their licenses.”
Al-Khateeb remained optimistic about the future, expressing his confidence in Saudi Arabia’s ability to move past the crisis once the worst was over.
“The tourism sector resumes its activities with a renewed spirit and great hopes for moving forward at an accelerated pace, to achieve our aspirations in harmony with Saudi Vision 2030, which seeks to pursue economic diversification, attract investments, increase revenues and create job opportunities for citizens,” he said.
Many Saudis, who had been waiting to explore their country’s hidden beauty, have welcomed the government’s decision to focus on domestic tourism.

Dr. Sakher Al-Qahtani, a dentist living in Riyadh, had the time of his life vacationing in Abha this summer after the lockdown was lifted.
He recommended the place to anyone looking for a place to start domestic tourism experience.
Al-Qahtani said Abha had changed dramatically since the ministry started developing Saudi Arabia into a tourist destination and regulating tourism activities.
“The shops, restaurants, and cafes here are on a par with what you would find in Riyadh,” he told Arab News.
“And the activities on offer have also received a significant upgrade. You can go hiking or hang-gliding in the mountains, or take a day trip to one of the nearby villages for a tour of incredibly well-preserved historical sights. And even the beach isn’t that far away by car, only about three hours.”

Expat businessmen optimistic about life after COVID-19 lockdown

Updated 49 min 8 sec ago

Expat businessmen optimistic about life after COVID-19 lockdown

  • Many expat business owners have praised the Saudi government for its role in helping them survive the COVID-19 outbreak

JEDDAH: Expat business owners in Saudi Arabia hit by loss of sales during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) lockdown period have expressed hope for the future as trading gradually gets underway again.

Many foreign-run firms operating in the Kingdom have been facing uncertain times due to curfews and restrictions put in place throughout the Kingdom to stop the spread of the virus.

But with the easing of precautionary measures allowing the resumption of commercial activities, expat business proprietors are looking forward with optimism to life after lockdown.

According to the World Investment Report 2020, published by the UN Conference on Trade and Development, investment had a key role to play in countering the long-term developmental impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on national economies.

Awais Misri, the Pakistani CEO of Ramsons Trading Co. in Jeddah, told Arab News: “Saudi Arabia has been more protected and insulated from the worst effects of the COVID-19 depression, so I see consumption rebounding at least initially and that’s because Saudi Arabia’s economy is generally robust.”

His company, which supplies hotels, caterers, restaurants, and cafes in Makkah and Madinah with food products, along with supermarkets, was heavily impacted by the lockdown but he was confident of bouncing back.

“People are tired of being at home, they want to go out and spend; hence, consumption will go up and possibly even higher than pre-COVID-19 levels, at least initially,” Misri added.

Many expat business owners have praised the Saudi government for its role in helping them survive the COVID-19 outbreak.

Mahmood Khan, from India, who has a clothing manufacturing business in Riyadh, told Arab News: “Fortunately, some retailers were able to sell online, which proved successful for many businesses. However, for companies like ours, we were closed for the past three months. It has affected our revenue significantly. Up to 70 percent in sales were lost.

“With the curfew lifted and tremendous efforts put in by the government to ensure health and safety, we are positive that we will come out of these trying times soon. We have already seen a surge in orders and deliveries for the end of the year,” he added. 

Another factory owner said the pandemic had forced production to be halted. Jeddah-based Pakistani-British clothing retailer Farhan Ashfaq said: “This, of course, impacted our workers and community.

“However, we applaud the way Saudi Arabia has fought against COVID-19 to protect its citizens and residents. The government ensured safety first and has opened up businesses so we can get back on our feet and flourish.”

Startups dealing with the aftermath of the unprecedented health crisis were also hopeful of being able to resume business as usual.

Iman Azmat, an Indian-Canadian fashion retailer based in Dammam, said: “This has been a very trying time for all startups, especially those that began their journey in 2019.

“However, with the curfew being lifted and as things go back to normal, we hope to achieve the aims we set out with in the near future. Many foreign investors are eyeing Saudi Arabia as the beacon of hope.”