Domestic tourism can't replace foreign tourism, warns hotel head

Published: 12 July 2020 - 2:15 p.m.
By: Hotelier Middle East Staff
Even as air traffic starts to make a racket again, almost all tourism and hospitality experts agree it will take some time before things return back to normal. In the interim, domestic tourism has become the go-to, with staycations and local offerings taking precedent over outbound travel. While some Middle East countries are optimistic about this strategy, others are a bit more cautious about the rise of domestic holidaying.

A report from BloombergQuint looked at a handful of countries around the region to see how they have adapted to domestic tourism.

In Turkey, it could take as long as three years for the industry to bounce back, according to Marti Hotels & Marinas chief executive Emre Narin.

Around eight million Turkish guests travelled within the country last year, compared with 50 million foreign visitors the country was expecting this year. “Domestic tourism cannot possibly replace that kind of a market,” Narin said.

Over in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, there’s a different story playing out. Despite the pandemic hitting the Kingdom just months after it rolled out its new foreign leisure tourism campaign, the country has already adapted with its ‘Saudi Summer’ drive.

“The amount of constraint that people are feeling, the suffocation — this is a chance,” Saudi Tourism Authority chief executive Fahd Hamidaddin, said during a video conference to announce the summer strategy.

“Saudi Summer comes as a wonderful opportunity to discover multiple tourist destinations in KSA, alongside its historical, natural and cultural treasures.

"The campaign also contributes to enhancing efforts by the Ministry of Tourism to revive the tourism sector, which was most affected by the repercussions of the COVID-19 crisis,” said His Excellency Ahmed Al Khateeb, Minister of Tourism for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Chairman of the STA.

In lieu of any religious tourism to the Kingdom’s holy cities this year, Saudi Summers will hone in on the offerings of Jeddah and KAEC; Abha; Tabuk; Khobar, Dammam and Ahsa; Al Baha; Al Taif; Yanbu and Umluj; and Riyadh.

“There is a clear opportunity for some countries to soften the blow of lost inbound demand by encouraging residents to holiday at home,” said Tourism Economics Europe and Middle East MD David Goodger. Countries with large outbound travel markets and which typically run a tourism deficit are best placed to benefit from this trend,” he said.

COVID-19 has rampaged through the travel and tourism industry, with the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) fearful of up to 100 million job losses this year – in the best-case scenario.

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