Global downturn won’t impact summer vacations
By Joe Avancena
DAMMAM – Despite the global economic crisis, the number of citizens and expatriates taking summer vacation this year will not decline. And it will be business as usual too for the travel industry, according to one of the top leaders in the Kingdom’s travel and tourism industry.
“There will be a shift in summer vacation destinations with fewer people going to Europe and North America; more will be going to closer destinations in the Asia-Pacific region, such as, Malaysia, Thailand and Maldives, and to Mideastern countries like Lebanon, Syria, and Turkey and to other locations in the Mediterranean,” said Abdullah Abo Khamseen, a senior member of the travel and tourism council of the Asharqia Chambers of Commerce and Industry in the Eastern Province.
He said that Saudi Arabia is not experiencing the deep economic downturn facing other countries, including some in the Gulf region. “The Saudi economy is still very resilient and strong; citizens who used to travel and spend their summer vacations overseas will still leave the Kingdom this summer.” “The cost of air tickets will remain comparatively low this summer,” he added.
He said that fuel charges, which had gone up in previous years, will be reduced this year which will decrease travel costs.
According to Abo Khamseen, who is also the executive general of Kanoo Travels, the domestic tourism industry will also do well this summer. He said that domestic summer destinations, such as those in the Taif and Abha regions, have more attractions than ever before.
“Summer destinations in the Kingdom are much cheaper than they used to be. The Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA), which is promoting domestic tourism, has done a good job in improving the national tourism infrastructure. In recent years, many tourism options – including eco-tourism – have been added,” Abo Khamseen said.
Domestic tourism is now geared to attracting nationals who usually travel abroad. The improvement of tourist infrastructure facilities and holding tourism festivals have encouraged citizens to visit cities in the Kingdom, further increasing the importance of the domestic tourism industry to the economy. – SG

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