Investors wary as Eid break fails to encourage Saudi tourists

Entertainment sector investor Nasser Al-Otaibi said many shy away from investing in the sector due to certain restrictions in Saudi Arabia

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Even as international tourism flourished, investors in the Saudi Arabia are worried at the lukewarm response of holidaymakers during the recent Eid break.

An investor in the tourism sector, Saeed Al-Qahtani, was quoted by Makkah newspaper as saying that hot weather in Saudi Arabia forced many people to stay indoors during the break.

However, this assertion has to be taken with a pinch of salt as people spend their holidays countries with similar weather conditions. They go there because of better tourism activities.

“Local tourists are not obliged to stay in the Kingdom during every holiday, but many travel for the shortest of holidays. That is because the Kingdom has many restrictions, especially as youth are prevented them from entering shopping centers or public parks and zoos,” said Al-Qahtani.
He said the number of Saudis who traveled abroad during the last Eid holiday reached 400,000.

“The neighboring countries have similar weather conditions to ours but they have better entertainment and tourism programs. We need to study the reasons carefully and understand what it is about Saudi Arabia that makes Saudis seek other countries for tourism,” said Al-Qahtani.

A former member of the Eastern Province Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s tourism committee, Abdullah Bukhamseen, said vacationers in some of the neighboring Gulf countries feels like spending their holidays in the US or European countries.

“The entertainment sector in the Kingdom is extremely stale. There are many regulations that do not serve the target consumers and obstruct investors from investing in entertainment projects. The neighboring Gulf countries have better entertainment programs which serve the people and provide the entertainment people want,” said Bukhamseen.

He added an investor had lost millions investing in an international circus group that faced a lot of restrictions here.

“The seating was segregated and members of the same family could not sit together. It is very difficult to open a cinema or host a circus in the Kingdom. Music was not allowed and the circus could not do its transition from one segment to another properly,” said Bukhamseen.

Entertainment sector investor Nasser Al-Otaibi said many investors shy away from investing in the entertainment sector due to certain restrictions in Saudi Arabia.

“The Kingdom is putting in great efforts to increase national tourism, however it must facilitate investment in the entertainment sector in order to add variety to the Kingdom’s tourist seasons. As expensive as external tourism is, people are willing to pay in order to have fun and enjoy their holidays,” said Al-Otaibi.

This article first appeared in the Saudi Gazette on July 18, 2016.