Tourist activity in Jeddah decreased by 75 percent this Ramadan with occupancy in hotels at a modest 30 percent, according to a member of the National Tourism Council.
Ibrahim Al-Rashid blamed the late start of the summer vacation for this slump. He claimed that Saudi and Gulf nationals make up the majority of Jeddah tourists, and most of them prefer to visit Makkah and Madinah at this time of the year.
He added that the slump was greater than anticipated: “We expected a 25 percent decrease, but what we have is a 75 percent decrease.”
Prince Abdullah Bin Saud Bin Mohamed, chairman of the tourism committee at the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry, told a local daily that it is too early to say that tourism has slumped this Ramadan. He reminded them that it was still the middle of the month.
What he did confirm, however, was that Shaaban (June-July 2013) had seen a 20 percent decrease in hotel and short-stay apartment occupancy rates.
The prince identified weak marketing for Jeddah’s annual tourism events as the main culprit behind the dip.
He blamed the Jeddah municipality and the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA) for failing to adequately promote tourism in the city.
Prince Abdullah asserted that Jeddah does not have an adequate number of hotels. He blamed the SCTA for failing to encourage Saudi investment in the local hotel business.
The regulations that govern hotel ownership in Saudi Arabia are needlessly arcane and require reform, he said.
Bandar Al-Fuheid, head of the Arab Organization for Tourism, claimed that the ongoing unrest elsewhere in the Arab world has scared tourists away.
Al-Fuheid claimed that the Saudi government is spending more on external tourism than it is doing on internal tourism, adding that his organization was working with a number of countries to draft more balanced tourism budgets.
Al-Fuheid expects the tourism sector to provide 450 million jobs worldwide by the end of 2013: a testament to its enormity. He added that Saudi Arabia is working well with the organization to strengthen its own tourism sector.
This article was first published in the Saudi Gazette.