Is Saudi Arabia Ready for a Tourism Boost?

Saudi Arabia pic
Saudi Arabia
Image: tripadvisor.com

Joann Baney, a business professor working at Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA), is also a consultant and the co-owner of the Professional Development Company, Inc. Although based in New York City, Joann Baney often travels out of the country, and, on several occasions, has traveled to Saudi Arabia to teach in executive programs sponsored by the King Khalid Foundation.

With the drop in oil prices in recent years, Saudi Arabia is now considering increasing its tourism promotion. According to Brid Breeler, a tourism consultant, Saudi Arabia is “the last frontier of tourism.” The country has traditionally been reluctant to open up its doors to foreign tourists due to the differences in culture.

Now, even Prince Sultan Bin Salman, the head of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage, is lobbying for a more lenient stance on tourism. The nation’s most profitable source of tourist income is the annual pilgrimage. Around 18 million Muslims visit the country every year, especially the holy cities of Mecca and Medina.

Possible tourist activities include glamping (camping with glamour and luxury amenities), diving, sand skiing, and archeological site tours. Prince Sultan has proposed issuing visas to non-Muslim tourists, with Mecca and Medina remaining available to Muslim visitors only.

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