Coronavirus: Saudi Arabia’s private sector to drive local tourism says minister

The private sector is expected to be the driving force behind local tourism in Saudi Arabia amid the coronavirus pandemic, according to the Kingdom’s Tourism Minister as authorities announce the launch of a domestic summer vacation campaign.

“If there’s one thing we’ve learned about our efforts in trying to help build the tourism industry in Saudi Arabia is the importance of working with the private sector. As a Ministry of Tourism and the Saudi Tourism Authority (STA), we’re mainly the guiding hand and regulator but we hope that the private sector will be the driving force,” Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Tourism and Chairman of the STA Ahmed al-Khateeb told reporters on Wednesday during a virtual press conference.

Saudi Arabia resumed domestic tourism starting from June 21 after the Kingdom halted it for more than three months due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The STA officially unveiled a new campaign, called Saudi Summer, to encourage citizens and residents to explore the Kingdom this year, in lieu of a holiday abroad, following the lifting of lockdown restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The new domestic tourism campaign will run from June 25 until September 30 and will promote 10 locations across Saudi Arabia. The ten areas are Jeddah and KAEC; Abha; Tabuk; Khobar, Dammam, and Ahsa; al-Baha; al-Taif; Yanbu and Umluj; and Riyadh.

STA authorities carried out a survey that interviewed over 1,000 Saudis in May in collaboration with IPSOS and that showed that 57 percent of Saudi residents are concerned about traveling on holiday by plane, but 85 percent are still planning to take a break of around ten days this year.

The survey also showed that 78 percent expressed curiosity in exploring their own country.

Almost 75 percent of Saudis said their trust in the government is motivating them to consider summer vacations in the Kingdom, instead of outside. Almost 80 percent expressed a “curiosity to explore my country.”

In addition, over 80 percent of Saudis have not yet booked vacations for summer, according to the survey.