Questions and Answers about Tourism in Saudi Arabia
General Department for Media & Public Relations
1430H – 2009G
Tourism, at present is one of the most important economic resources that is contributing effectively to the increase in GDP of many countries of the civilized world. Given the importance of tourism for the development of national resources and its role in highlighting the cultural aspects of human development, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has sought to endeavor, in balanced steps, to use its rich cultural, environmental and social heritage invested in tourism for the benefit of Saudi citizens and contribute to economic diversification and increased employment opportunities.

From its inception, Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA), has adopted modern management methodologies and the concepts of decentralization in all tasks.
Subsequently, social awareness has developed significantly in both tourism and antiquities after the establishment of the SCTA. This success is based on strong partnerships between the private and public sector, but also with members of the public.

We offer our readers, some of the answers to the key issues of Tourism and Antiquities in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia through SCTA’s perspective, by way of FAQs that follow:
FAQs & Answers
Q- When was SCTA founded, and what is its role?
Supreme Commission for Tourism (SCT) in Saudi Arabia was founded in the beginning of 1412 AH / (2000) by Royal Decree in order to develop national tourism, and through this to achieve economic diversity, high growth rate and create new job opportunities.

Given the importance of antiquities and museums, the Council of Ministers issued a Resolution on 16/3/1429H / (24/3/2008) to merge the Deputy Ministry of Antiquities and Museums with the SCT. Thus, Supreme Commission for Tourism (SCT) was changed to Saudi Commission for Tourism & Antiquities (SCTA) complying to this resolution.
Q- What are the powers and authority vested in the Commission by the new statute?
The new statute is an expression of the awareness experienced by the SCTA officials to the importance of cultural and urban heritage. This is the result with which SCTA by its new statute is determined to protect and preserve the "nation’s cultural and urban heritage" as one of its important duties. Such an approach has provided the organizational support to the Heritage Village development projects launched by the SCTA in cooperation with various partners for more than two years now.
Among the powers and authority vested in the Commission are: the control, monitoring and categorizing of the tourism accommodation sector (hotels and furnished units), and the granting of operating licenses for the activities of tourism practitioners, to identify and preserve the tourist sites in cooperation with the competent authorities and develop policies for private sector investment.
With regard to the archeological sites and museums, the new statute gives SCTA authority for establishment, operation and licensing of private museums; to conduct archeological excavations and license excavation companies; develop a catalogue of antiquity in Saudi Arabia; retrieval of national monuments from all over the world; protection, preservation and restoration of historic buildings and archaeological sites; proposing acquisition of private buildings considered to be a national heritage, and encourage scientific research in the field of Tourism and Antiquities.
Q- What is the role of the SCTA Board of Directors?
The Board of Directors is responsible for operating the Commission, issuing decisions and approve plans, projects and initiatives for the development of national tourism and antiquities. The Board holds meetings on a regular basis, several times a year under the chairmanship of His Royal Highness the President of the Board.
Q- Who is the SCTA’s tourism goal? Domestic tourist or Foreign tourist or Both?
Saudi tourist is targeted as marketing in all projects and programs of the SCTA. It is not surprising that the Saudi tourist is the target of tourist countries all over the world due to the relatively high levels of tourism spending.
Targeting oversees tourists is not a priority of SCTA, although it has devised the final version of the e-visa system in collaboration with the Ministries of Interior and Foreign Affairs. System launched in 2006, through which the elite groups of oversees tourists are granted tourist visas to visit tourist sites in the Kingdom.
Q- What is the vision and mission of the SCTA?
VISION: To be the tourism centre of excellence working in close partnership with the relevant stakeholders to achieve the overall vision and mission for tourism in the Kingdom. To be a facilitator of sustainable tourism development, which is consistent with the Kingdom's social, cultural and environmental values.
MISSION: To facilitate the sustainable growth and success of the tourism industry in the Kingdom by providing clarity of direction for the industry. To work in close partnership with industry leaders and all stakeholders, to inspire and create an environment in which the industry can achieve a high degree of self sufficiency.
With regards to the SCTA role towards heritage and antiquities, the Antiquities and Museums Sector is to “preserve, register, excavate and examine national antiquities and museums, develop museums and urban heritage, increase awareness on cultural heritage, operate antiquities and museums with greater efficiency, develop cultural resources to be introduced to members of the society and provide incentives to investment projects in the antiquities and museums sector”.
Q- What is the General Tourism Law?
The GTL is a combination of an integrated regulatory and legal framework that contributes to the development of tourism as an important economic resource, and to enable the SCTA to regulate the various tourism sectors, as defined in the General Strategy for the Development of National Tourism, which includes travel agencies, tour operators, tourism accommodation and tourism attractions.
The GTL will be the core structure for unifying various tourism related systems of different government authorities. Such a step would contribute to expedite the pace of tourism growth, which was hindered by the lack of clarity and the overlapping tasks and jurisdictions. It would also provide more attention to tourism services, achieve high performance standards in tourism facilities, while ensuring balance between the facilities and consumers. The GTL also covers fees and charges that might apply and identifies the mechanism for controlling and investigating violations.
Q- What is the National Tourism Development Project?
The National Tourism Development Project received the generous attention of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques and the Crown Prince, as it was the first project to be developed by the SCTA. The Commission has contracted thousands of national and international experts and conducted hundreds of workshops and discussion sessions. The General Strategy for the Development of National Tourism was approved by the Shura Council on 13/10/1424H-7/12/2003G followed by the Council of Ministers approval on 25/1/1425H-16/3/2004G which also included the amendments on the SCTA Statute.
The General Strategy for the Development of National Tourism is a foundational stage for it identifies the dimensions of the tourism industry. It is designed to develop plans for value based tourism based on the Islamic values adopted by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia as the cradle of Islam and the land of the two holy mosques. The Strategy aims at achieving sustainability on the economic, social, cultural and ecological levels.
Q- Why does the SCTA follow the partnership methodology with other parties?
The partnership methodology is one of the SCTA’s operating principles, as we know there are different bodies, public or private, that are involved in this industry. For that, the SCTA needs to adopt unconventional methods and techniques such as the partnership methodology.
Partnership programs are designed to coordinate and join the efforts of officials, investors, local societies, governorates and municipalities, as well as promoting the private sector and the provinces in planning, developing, and operating local tourism with the aim of increasing value added work and efficiency.
Tourism partnership programs include: local and national policies, applying laws and legislations, developing and improving laws and regulations, financing and investments, supporting SMEs, coordinating marketing and media, developing tourism products, training and education, health and environment, safety and security, culture and heritage.
The SCTA has adopted the partnership methodology from the start, it has conducted several surveys at the launching of the National Tourism Development Project, which witnessed the participation of over 2190 person from 621 relevant tourism organizations from both public and private sectors.
Q- What does the decentralization principal, adopted by the SCTA mean?
Although the SCTA is the official government body responsible for tourism and antiquities, it refuses the centralization concept and believes that provinces and governorates shall have an important role in the development of local tourism and in the protection and preservation of national antiquities. Hence, the SCTA has created the Provincial Tourism Development Councils (PTCs) in each and every province of Saudi Arabia and some of the large governorates such as Jeddah, Taif and Al-Ahsa. Representatives of relative organizations from the public and private sectors are members of such councils and the Administrative Governor of the province is the president.
The SCTA has established 16 Provincial Tourism Organizations (PTOs) in all provinces of the Kingdom and 3 governorates by providing logistic services and human resources with the aim of supporting SCTA plans and programs in cooperation with main stakeholders in the province.
Q- What is the role of the PTCs and PTOs?
PTCs are responsible for monitoring the execution of tourism development plans in the province or governorate and overcome all obstacles that might stand in the way of successful implementation, as well as approving programs and activities developed by related tourism bodies.
Where as PTOs are responsible for coordinating between the SCTA and the provincial stakeholders in the execution of tourism development plans and programs, promoting tourism investments, preserving antiquities and urban heritage, issuing SCTAs licenses and monitoring all tourism activities.
Q- How does the SCTA deal with those destroying antiquities or demolishing historical buildings?
The SCTA believes that every citizen is a guardian of his nation’s culture and heritage, for that it aims at creating awareness amongst the nation. The SCTA believes that all members of the society shall protect and preserve the heritage and shall report any violation or act of vandalism towards archeological or historical site, so that the SCTA would take the necessary action as stipulated by laws and regulations.
Q- When was Madain Saleh listed in the World Heritage List by the UNESCO? Are there other Saudi sites to be listed as well?
The SCTA, guided by the Custodian of the Two Holly Mosques and HRH the Crown Prince, has developed a project for listing Saudi archeological and historical sites in the UNESCO World Heritage List. The first Saudi site to be listed was Madain Saleh in Rajab 1429H - July 2008G. Al-Deraiyah site was proposed last year and Jeddah Old Town is to be proposed by 2010G.
Q- When did the SCTA start to issue licenses for tour operators, travel agencies and new hotels and furnished units?
The SCTA started issuing licenses to tour operators in 1428H/2007G, and on 1/8/1429H after which it issued licenses to new hotels where as new furnished units were issued SCTA licenses on 1/11/1429H. The SCTA was granted control over travel agencies on 1/11/1429H and on 1/1/14230H the SCTA was granted the monitoring control over hotels, whereas it was granted the same authorities over existing furnished units on 1/4/1430H.
Q- What are the procedures for issuing SCTA licenses?
There are brochures for all activities licensed by the SCTA and they are:
  • Licensing Tourism Accommodation Facilities
  • Licensing Travel Agencies
  • Licensing Tour Operators
  • Licensing Tour Guides
  • Executive Regulations of the Timeshare Law
This is in addition to the guides published on the SCTA’s official website (www.scta.gov.sa) for the following activities:
  • Tourism Accommodation (Hotels – Furnished Units)
  • Travel Agencies
  • Tours Guides
  • Tour Operators
  • Timeshare
Online applications can be filled for the following activities only:
Q- What is the SCTA's role in promoting tourism investment?
The SCTA is keen on improving the tourism environment in Saudi Arabia, promoting deployment in all provinces, identifying environmental resources, contributing to the preservation and development of tourism investment projects, developing qualified human resources in the tourism industry. In order to encourage young Saudis to work and invest in the tourism industry, the SCTA has signed cooperation agreements with the Credit Bank, Centennial Fund, Human Resources Fund and some local investment banks to support SMEs.
Applications for such loans are received by the Investment Department in the SCTA and Tourism Investment Services Centers; the Department studies the project and submits it to one of the aforementioned banks. The SCTA has equipped 11 Tourism Investment Service Offices all over the Kingdom, some of which are located at the local PTO.
Q- When was the Red Sea Zone Development Strategy approved by the Council of Ministers?
The SCTA commenced activating the Resolution of the Council of Ministers on 12/6/1429H-16/5/2008G. The Strategy identifies the tourism and geographical potentials of the Red Sea Zone and its significance to the tourism investment opportunities in KSA. The project includes the establishment of new tourism destinations based on the tourism potentials of the Red Sea. It also aims at utilizing and investing historical ports after restoring and developing such facilities.
The project is currently executed in coordination with relative authorities such as the Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs and the Royal Commission of Jubail and Yunba and many others.
Q- When did the SCTA propose the Uqair Investment Project?
Uqair is considered to be the closest beach to Riyadh city, the capital of Saudi Arabia and the largest exporter of local tourists.
In the beginning of 1429H the SCTA launched Uqair Investment project as a model development project awaiting the best investor for such a promising project.
Uqair project was given priority in both the General Strategy for the Development of National Tourism and the Eastern Province Tourism Development Strategy.
Q- Where can I find Tourism Information Centers?
Tourism Information Centers (TIC) are located at busy tourism sites and facilities such as airports, markets and hotels. TICs are classified in three categories:
Class (A): internal kiosks operated by employees 16 hours a day. 5 kiosks are currently completed in:
1- King Khalid International Airport in Riyadh
2- King Fahad International Airport in Dammam
3- King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah
4- Prince Mohammed bin Abdullah International airport in Maddinah Province
5- Al-Taif National Airport
Each center is equipped with computers and a plasma screen connected to the internet and LCD screens displaying pictures and videos of KSA.
Class (B): there are a total number of 15 distributed all over the Kingdom and they are automatically operated. Each center is equipped with computers and LCD screens to display pictures and videos of Saudi Arabia.
Such TICs are located at:
No. of Centers
Location 1
Location 2
Dammam Museum
SCTA headquarters
National Museum
Buraidah Museum
Al-Jabalen Mountain Hotel
Tabouk Center
Movenpick Hotel
Hera Moul
Khzam Palace
Kasr Al-Baha Hotel
Kasr Al-Abha Hotel
Holliday Inn Hotel
Class (C): Electronic Information Centers:
They are similar to ATMs and are automatically operated 24 hours a day and connected to the internet. The SCTA has established 80 TIC of this class and distributed them throughout the provinces of Saudi Arabia.
TIC of classes (A) & (C) are connected via internet for updating purposes and the total number of TICs connected to the internet is (85). These TICs are distributed in museums, hotels, malls and airports throughout the Kingdom as follows:
No. of TICs
Eastern province
Q- Are there any efforts being made towards the preservation of urban heritage?
The protection and preservation of the urban heritage is one of the core functions of the SCTA as per its new Statute, and several resolutions were issued by the government prohibiting the demolition of any heritage building without the permission of the SCTA. Some of the most important programs developed by the SCTA are:
1- Heritage Villages Development Program
2- Historical City Centers Development Project
3- Heritage Hotels Development Project
4- King Abdulaziz Palaces Development Project
5- Seminars and exhibitions on the protection and preservation of urban heritage
The SCTA is working on the development of detailed database of the urban heritage, design technical consultations and provide financial and administrative support. The SCTA has surveyed archeological sites and counted over (1985) site, (806) have the potentials for future investments and (173) sites have the potentials of current investment.
Q- What is the Heritage Villages Development Project?
KSA is rich with distinguished heritage villages reflecting the history and social life of predecessors all over the Kingdom. The SCTA worked in cooperation with its stakeholders on investing and developing such villages with the aim of providing financial resources and contributing to the development of governorates, cities and villages.
The program started developing five villages in: Ghatt, Ula, Jubbah, Thi Ein and Rijal Alma.
Q- What is the SCTA’s position on qualifying Saudi citizens to work in the travel and tourism field?
The SCTA views the provision of job opportunities for Saudi citizens in tourism fields as one of its key tasks for which it was established. Therefore, the SCTA has begun nationalizing positions in the tourism and travel sector after completion of the of the plan to nationalize jobs of tourism and travel to Saudize 81% of jobs at tour and travel agencies over the next three yeas.
The SCTA has also completed the professional standards for eight professions in the tourism sector in collaboration with the General Organization for Technical Education and Vocational Training, specialized foreign agencies, and investors in the tourism and travel sector.
The plans to nationalize job opportunities in the sectors related to tourism include the following:
-1 Tourism and travel agencies sector
- 2 Accommodation sector (hotels, furnished units)
- 3 Tourism attraction sector (leisure)
- 4 Traditional and handicrafts sector
- 5 Hajj and Umrah sector
The SCTA has made way for hundreds of job opportunities in Riyadh, Jeddah, and Dammam through training programs linked to employment. The SCTA also trained and employed hundreds of trainees in the tourism and travel sector, and found more than 5000 job opportunities in the accommodation sector, paving way for the first group of trainees to receive on completion of training in the first quarter of 2009.
The SCTA is coordinating with Human Resources Development Fund to commence recruiting, during the course of this year, personnel for more than 2000 non-tourism positions in the tourism sector throughout the Kingdom.
Q- Have any training or outreach programs been implemented in the public or private sectors relating to the interaction with tourists?
Over 24,462 trainees from MOI, Customs and the Committee for the Propagation of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice, have been trained in communication skills with tourists. The SCTA has further designed a number of specialized training programs in tourism program design, and tour guidance, which have benefited hundreds of employees in travel agencies and those working in educational and training institutions of the tourism service sector.
Q- What are the programs implemented by the SCTA to raise tourism culture awareness in the Saudi community?
Among the key programs implemented by the SCTA are:
B. Smile Program: This program was recently awarded the UNWTO Ulysses Award for Innovation in Tourism. The program aims to qualify and educate future host generations on the concept of tourism and tourists, enhance positive practices, and raise awareness on national tourism products. The educational sector was chosen to be the incubator for this program since it is one of the most disciplined, interactive and accepting environments. Over the last academic year, 51,000 students have been trained from all departments of education in the Kingdom.
B. Tourism Enriches: SCTA has completed phase I of this program which aims to spread tourism culture concept amongst local communities through an awareness program directed to inform and educate members of the local communities on social, economic and cultural dimensions of the tourism industry as well as correcting misconceptions in this regard, and emphasize positive concepts. The program includes separate workshops for males and females. Over 25 workshops were held as part of the program, 20 of which were directed towards men. Attendance exceeded 765 leaders from the local community. Workshop covered a number of topics, the most important: Tourism concept and definition, tourism planning, tourism investment, hospitality in the Saudi community, local and international experiences, and brief presentations on tourism in the provinces.
C. Leave No Trace: this program is recognized internationally, and is based on carefully studied scientific fundamentals. The program aims to enhance self consciousness of the tourist or visitor whether citizen or resident regarding the importance of conserving and protecting natural recourses giving future generations the opportunity to benefit and appreciate it as well.
E. The SCTA implements the program in the various provinces and regions. It aims to educate the users of tourism land areas by teaching the proper mode and moral behaviors which ensure leaving only a minimum environmentally acceptable trace behind.
Q- Traditional handicrafts are considered to be key components enriching tourism in addition to creating job opportunities. What are the SCTA’s efforts played in this regard?
Data indicates that the number of craftsmen in the Kingdom is estimated at more than 20,000 men and women working in approximately 45 different types of handicrafts. Their produce is estimated at about 20% of the Kingdoms revenues made from handicrafts. Average annual revenues in the Kingdom are estimated at about SAR 1500 million.
The National Project to Develop Traditional Handicrafts launched by the SCTA is responsible for reviving handicrafts. One of the most prominent achievements of the project is the completion of preparing the National Development Strategy for Handicrafts, developing permanent headquarters to practice crafting in a number of provinces, developing and equipping centers for families working in the handicraft field in a number of cities and towns, holding a number of training courses to develop handicraft and other products.
Q- What is the tourism event support program?
Through this program, the SCTA supports and encourages the private sector to implement tourism events of positive input to the tourism industry in the Kingdom.
The program is dependent on the regulations placed by the SCTA to achieve sustainable tourism development. Some of the funding support given by the program are: financial, marketing, media, technical. Funds have reached up to SAR 1 million for an event.
Funds given by the SCTA cover the following events:
- Cultural and heritage events
- Sports tourism events (programs other than those supervised by General Presidency for Youth Welfare)
- Nature and adventure tourism events
- Exhibition and Conference Events
As well as other tourism events approved by the SCTA. Provision for funds can be found on the SCTA website.
Q- What are the key services offered by MAS?
The Tourism Information and Research Center (MAS), an important wing of the SCTA, is responsible for collecting tourism data and conducting research and related studies in KSA. All data and information collected are entered into a secured electronic database. The center then classifies the data and publishes it in a way benefiting all users.
The services provided by the center benefits investors, operators, researchers, public sector, international institutions and travelers. To meet the different needs, data is distributed in various ways; booklets, CDs, and via website. Some of the key reports issued by the center since its establishment are:
- Quarter Report
- Annual Report
- Tourism Service Guide
- Statistical Reports on Key Tourism Events and Festivals in KSA
For more information, please visit MAS website : www.mas.gov.sa
Q- You mentioned some of the SCTA’s websites, would you please clarify the differences between them?
The SCTA, since its establishment, has complied with the government’s trend to implement electronic management systems. The launch of the SCTA website was one of the very first electronic services provided by the SCTA since its establishment to communicate with the public.
The SCTA has three specialized websites, where each has its own set of objectives.
The SCTA official website (as a government agency) www.scta.gov.sa, supervised by the Public Relations and Media Department, offers general information on the SCTA, its objectives, plans to develop the national tourism sector. In addition to a number of links for SCTA services and programs, e-publications, SCTA news, and key periodical activities. Saudi tourism, .www.saud.itourism.com, on the other hand, supervised by the marketing department, is a website for inbound and outbound tourists. It provides basic information about KSA, its position in both the Arab and Islamic Worlds and presents overviews of tourism attractions, climate, provinces, economic status, tourism events and festivals. The third website is MAS, the Tourism Information and Research Center, www.mas.gov.sa, provides specialized publications and studies, and annual tourism reports. MAS has kept all SCTA publications since its establishment.
Q- How does the SCTA deal with the rise in prices of tourism services, and are tourism facilities monitored in this regard?
The SCTA is working to control the rise in prices via numerous procedures such as the encouragement of tourism investment to raise supply to meet demand, and limit seasonality.
The SCTA is also organizing inspections on all facilities to limit over-pricing, as well as implementing penalization policies for violators.
Q- What is the SCTA position on benefiting from Hajj and Umrah performers?
Hajj and Umrah are religious duties. The Kingdom is proud to serve those fulfilling such duties. Tourism is limited to those who wish to practice activities outside the holy areas in collaboration with the Ministry of Hajj.
Q- Why does the SCTA sign agreements with both the private and public sectors?
Tourism overlaps with other sectors in terms of roles and jurisdictions. The new SCTA Statue clearly states these overlaps. However, there are still numerous services, infrastructure related to tourism, such as transport, municipality, and others that require intense collaboration to develop tourism services. Therefore, the SCTA has sought agreement to limit conflict of efforts and to maximize benefits with the available resources for tourism development.
Q- What is meant by Time-Share of tourism units?
Time-sharing system in units of tourism real-estate means the possibility of buying the right to use and benefit from real estate in one of the tourist accommodation facilities for a specific time of the year under a contract for a paid amount for a period of no less than three years. The executive policies of the regulations include the most important provisions to obtain license for real estate used for timesharing, as well as the provisions for obtaining a license for the marketing of real estate units both inside and outside the Kingdom, and registration procedures that must be adhered to upon presenting application to the SCTA.
The policy defines violation control mechanisms for timeshare activity practitioners through specialized staff in this area, at the SCTA
Q- Is tourism a new activity in KSA?
Tourism is not a new activity in KSA. Throughout history KSA has been the link between old world continents; it has been a crossroad for civilizations, historical events, trade roads and one of the cultural sources for world people. KSA is the cradle of Islam; it is the place where Islam started to spread throughout the world. This is in addition to the economic importance of the Kingdom where it has a distinctive position among other countries nowadays granting the Kingdom special political, commercial, cultural importance. These features have enabled KSA to obtain essential tourism potentials.
Q- Is tourism in KSA based on recreational goals only?
Tourism in KSA has national strategic goals including economic, cultural, heritage and environmental ones. The most important goal of tourism in KSA is to provide new job opportunities for Saudi nationals.
Tourism in KSA concentrates on family tourism in addition to social issues and maintaining the environment in particular. Recreation goal is one of the other positive aspects of tourism.
Q- What are the potentials of Saudi tourism?
KSA is considered by the most important countries regarding comprehensive environmental and civil heritage for tourism. In addition to its diversity of natural contours and natural atmospheres, we find diversity of archeological sites dating back to pre history and Islamic archeological sites and the contemporary architectural heritage. Kingdom provinces are rich of effective and supportive aspects for tourism; most important are national and regional museums, many popular markets, many cultural activities, people heritage diversity, crafts, traditional industries developed by the Saudi man through ages depending on the natural potentials of the local environment.
General statistics of Saudi tourism ingredients are:
- There are more than (12) thousand tourist natural sites (historical, natural and cultural)
- There are more than (95) thousand hotel room and (53) thousand furnished units
- There are more than (1000) travel and tourism agency
- There are more than (70) museums, (18) national park and (14) natural sanctuaries.
Q- Is it possible to shed light on tourism patterns in KSA?
There are many tourism patterns including visiting family and friends tourism, shopping, businesses, conferences, culture, heritage, sport, treatment, environment and adventures.
Sometimes one cannot decide where to spend the holidays in the Kingdom; that is due to being many tourism options offered by regional festivals in the summer. The diversity of Saudi Arabia is reflected in flowers of Taif, Qasseem's sweet dates, Zamzam water, Riyadh's Thumama deserts, Jeddah and Eastern Province shores...etc.
Saudi people have known tourism through their ancestors who were seamen and divers; this is what is known today as (sea tourism), moving nomads in the desert, shepherds, poets...etc. There have been farmers who loved and sang to palm trees and their harvest seasons. This is in addition to other individuals who are still practicing the handicraft business of their ancestors and practising this in bazaars and summer festivals.
Q- Are there sea tourism activities in KSA?
The Kingdom's clear and clean shores are one of the best shores world wide. These shores extend along Red Sea in the west up to 1,800 km in the west and along the Arabian Gulf in the east up to 700 km. This is in addition to the geographical location of the Kingdom including climate which is suitable to practise appropriate swimming and all water sport year round The Kingdom's warm water and long day hours are attraction aspects for incoming tourists form cold northern areas. These shores may be private properties affiliated to hotel or other companies. This can be further investigated locally for more information.
There are may water sports as sailing boats, waves sport, water skiing, small boats sport, motorcycles, water cycles. Some of the professionals provide required training of such sports activities.
For more information, pleas seek information from the hotel you stay in or from any other local sea port.
Sea tourism witnessed an important development in the recent years. The Kingdom shores became an investment field of businessmen who compete to build resorts, chalets, etc., overlooking the shores in the tourist regions as Jeddah and Eastern Province, Yanbu and Jazan. These activities are great in summer time. This includes organizing shore and sea competitions including: volleyball, football, fishing, sport boats, skiing etc.
Uqair in Al Ahsa and Haqal in Tabuk are (virgin) shores and will be invested into tourism destination in the near future.
Q – Are there any tourism islands in KSA?
Island tourism can be easily practiced in the islands of Tiran and Sanfer at the entrance of Aqaba Gulf, Farsan islands in the Red Seas and Hana Island in the Arab Gulf. Tourists in these islands can enjoy the natural environment of these beautiful islands as well as the local culture and heritage.
Q- How can the deserts of the Kingdom be utilized?
KSA deserts have been the dream of thousands worldwide who are looking towards living an exciting and unique tourism experience. The Saudi great desert extending from the far north to the far south and from the Arab Gulf to the Red Sea represents a very rich environment of beautiful valleys, sand dunes, clear atmospheres, mountains and plateaus. These deserts reflect the cultural heritage of Saudi Arabia. There are some activities carried out for desert lovers including spring festivals, handicraft festivals, camping activities, desert races as Hail rally, sand dunning, etc.
Tourism attraction to deserts are reflected in the practice of desert sports such as camping, sand dunning, flower & plant collection, riding horses and camels, training eagles, sand skiing and 4 wheel driving. The deep-rooted Saudi culture is noticed visibly through the daily life practices of Saudis living in the deserts, which is considered a great attraction for tourists.
Q- What are the most important museums in the Kingdom?
There are many specialized museums in the Kingdom; these museums have been designed conforming to cultural and educating standards reflecting the various past civilizations of KSA. These museums contribute to the improvement of tourism as they attract national and international tourists. Most important museums are: the National Museum in Riyadh, King Saud University Archeological Museum, provincial museums and private museums.
Q- Are there official holidays in KSA?
There are five business days in Saudi Arabia with Thursday and Friday as the weekends as per Islamic rules and regulations. The most important official holidays in the Kingdom are Eid Al Fitr & Eid Al Adha in the 10th and 12th months of the Hijra calendar, respectively. The summer school holidays consist of 3 Hijra months in the first school term; Eid Al Fitr, Eid Al Adha and spring break take place during the rest of the year.
The 23rd of September is the Kingdom’s national day; it represents the Kingdom's unification under the name of Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA); and it is an official public holiday.
Q- Are there markets providing great shopping experiences?
The Kingdom of SAUDI Arabia provides shopping lovers with fantastic shopping experiences as they can enjoy the Kingdom’s famous malls, shopping centers, hypermarkets and commercial centers.
Most products of national and international commercial brands and trade names, except alcohol drinks and pork meat, are available in the Kingdom. Shopping lovers can enjoy buying clothes, shoes, cosmetics, jewellery, utensils, glass, crystals, carpets, electronics, books, maps, toys ...etc.
Q- Are there any tourism festivals and activities in KSA?
Tourism festivals and activities, whether cultural or entertainment festivals, are distinguished with variable potentials making this type of tourism one of the most important types of cultural tourism all over the Kingdom attracting national and international tourists in large numbers. This is clear when we look at the population density in provinces and cities organizing such festivals and activities, especially during summer and spring. Some of the most important festivals are: Janadria Festival, Camels Festival, camel and horse races, flowers festival in Riyadh & Jubail, flowers and traditional perfumes festival in Taif, fine arts festival and city festivals in Jeddah, Abha, Taif, Buraida, Unaiza, Hail....etc.
Q- What are the most important archeological sites in KSA?
There are thousands of archeological sites in KSA containing movable and immovable monuments dating back to pre historic era up to Islamic ages; they represent the historical cultural monuments made by our ancestors; they reflect the depth of history and uniqueness of the past. Due to these facts, these sites attract national and international tourists. The most important sites are Madain Saleh, Al Faw Village, Al Rabtha, Al Rajajeel Columns and Al Madaina railway station.
Q- What about Bazaars?
Bazaars are found all over the Kingdom reflecting the architectural designs and cultural products of each province or governorate. Therefore, these bazaars are considered great tourism attractions that would contribute to the development of cultural tourism. Some of these famous bazaars are: Al Zal bazaar in Riyadh, Najran Popular bazaar, Aseer Tuesday bazaar, Buraida bazaar, Al Baha Tuesday bazaar and Al Kaysaria bazaar in Al Hofuf.
Q- Are there environment resources to be visited in the Kingdom?
Visits to natural reserves are an important activity in ecotourism as they provide tourists of all types with joy, entertainment and amusement. They provide them with adventure, discovering the rich flora and fauna of Saudi Arabia. The most important factor contributing to the development of such tourism activities is the provision of natural reserves. There are more than 15 natural reserves in the Kingdom including shores, seas, fields, valleys, mountains, deserts and forests. These various reserves hold great importance not on the national level alone but on the international level due to their spacious lands and their rich and rare flora and fauna.
Q- Is it right that Saudi citizens do not prefer local tourism?
Most Saudi citizens (70%) spend their holidays inside the Kingdom; therefore, it is unfair to say that Saudi citizens prefer tourism abroad.
Q- Can tourists use cameras in public places?
Yes, tourists can use cameras as per the Royal Decree approving and regulating the use of cameras in public places and tourism attractions; this approval allows using cameras in all places unless there are signs prohibiting photos.
Q- What facilities does the Kingdom offer in the area of tourism investment?
Tourism investment includes primary tourism facilities such as tourism accommodation facilities (hotels and furnished units), exhibition services, conferences, tourism guidance, restaurants...etc.
There are other investment opportunities in supportive tourism facilities, such as:
- Retail trade services
- Gardens & parks
- Banking services
- Medical services and heath care
The economic policy applied in the Kingdom provides various investment facilities such as: providing duty free markets, encouraging private sector, reforming financial transactions, promoting local investments....etc. It is also worth mentioning that the Kingdom is a member of the World Trade Organization.
Q- Are there any factors encouraging tourism investment in the Kingdom?
There are a number of encouraging factors related to tourism investment in the Kingdom such as:
- Availability of natural resources
- Infrastructure development
- Political and security stability
- Commercial civilization and positive economic environment
- Commercial policy
- Big market
Q- Is MICE tourism available in KSA?
International exhibitions organized by chambers of commerce in various places attract a great number of international companies and corporations. The chamber of commerce in Jeddah, Riyadh and Eastern Province have exerted great effort in organizing economic forums, technology and computer exhibitions (GATEX), communications, cars, carpets and tourism (Saudi Travel & Tourism Investment Market) organized by Supreme Commission for Tourism and archeology.
The great Arab and international libraries and publishing houses participate in the annual book exhibitions organized by the Ministry of Information and Culture and Saudi universities.
The commercial companies and groups display in such exhibition their products; also their representatives together with their Saudi counterparts discuss the investment opportunities; this is in addition to signing export / import contracts to export/import various kinds of commodities and products.
Q- Can I parachute from a plane over the Kingdom’s sky?
Tourists can practice their flying hobbies under supervision of specialists at the mountains of Al Suda area. There is an aviation club in Riyadh. The championship of free parachute jumping was carried out in Thumama park in 1422 H (2001); it was the first activity of the club where 6 Arab teams participated. The club includes a number of activities of free jumping and aviation at high altitudes in different areas every year.
Q- Are there places to practice rock climbing and mountain climbing?
There are places to practise this sport on the rocks of the mountains of Abu Khayal in Abha city and the Habla tourist park where many people practise a sport which is no less exciting than parachute jumping. This sport activity attracts visitors from different age categories and nationalities. Mountain climbing sport is one of the most important activities for Abha tourist festivals.