Saudis prefer revisiting their favorite holiday destinations – Arab News
JEDDAH: Year after year, holidaymakers in Saudi Arabia prefer revisiting their favorite holiday destinations, and research shows that Saudis are not breaking away from their pre-pandemic patterns anytime soon.
According to new research from Marriott Bonvoy, the travel loyalty program encompassing hotels, resorts, home rentals, and experiences across 30 brands in 138 countries, 12 percent of Saudi travelers have revisited the same country 10 times or more. In contrast, 30 percent returned to the same country five times or more before the onset of the pandemic last March.
International tourism has always been the preferred way of vacationing for many Saudis, with Arab countries leading in many categories.
“I would normally prefer my getaway destination to be familiar and cozy, somewhere I can call my second home. I like walking down the street to a coffee shop that knows my order, and hiking a trail alongside a river I have memorized,” said 29-year-old Abrar Abulfaraj from Jeddah.
The habitual nature of Saudi travelers shows that even post-pandemic, just 21 percent of those traveling abroad would opt for exploring a new vacation spot. 

Abulfaraj added: “Only due to the pandemic have I become adamant to visit new destinations, (have) new adventures, and appreciate more the luxury of traveling abroad as soon as the coast is clear.”
It is worth noting that the current health measures still being exercised around the world to manage the pandemic also contribute to Saudi travelers’ decisions.
While the following countries have always been staples, many elements come into play when deciding on a trip abroad, including accommodation, cuisine, language, route, currency exchange, and guaranteed weather.
As of 2021, 84 percent expressed their intention to go on a trip in the next 12 months, compared to the 8 percent who plan not to, and the remaining 8 percent are still on the fence.
Post-pandemic statistics show that Egypt will be the No. 1 getaway destination, with 33 percent of travelers intending to visit the country.
I would normally prefer my getaway destination to be familiar and cozy, somewhere I can call it my second home. I like walking down the street to a coffee shop that knows my order, and hiking a trail alongside a river I have memorized.
Abrar Abulfaraj
Noha Yousef, a private-sector worker in Riyadh, told Arab News that getting back on planes and flying to her favorite destinations has revived the sense of adventure in her.
“My family has been visiting Cairo ever since I can remember and it’s always the first stop to any destination. Whether it was Europe or the US, even Bali once, Cairo is where I head to first and I visit it at least twice a year,” said Yousef.
“We’re creatures of habit and once you find something or somewhere that’s comfortable, you’ll keep going back to it because it’s where you enjoy yourself most of the time when you’re away. Cairo to me has always been a place of adventure, there’s always something new to experience. 

“Whether you’re wandering in the alleyways of the old town or zigzagging in the double-parked side roads in the heart of the city, headed to the newest attraction, there’s always something to do and you can’t beat the Egyptian hospitality.”
The second most popular travel destination for Saudi travelers is the UAE, with 29 percent planning on flying there for a much-needed break.
The language, food and proximity of the UAE to Saudi Arabia make it an ideal vacation choice.
Farther away favorites are the Maldives and Austria, respectively, with 15 and 12 percent of Saudi travelers considering them for their next trip.
While some embark on adventurous trips and immerse themselves in new cultures and experiences, research shows that most Saudis traveling abroad opt for familiar and previously visited holiday destinations.
Neal Jones, chief sales and marketing officer of Marriott International, said: “We know there is pent-up demand for travel and this research demonstrates the impact the pandemic is continuing to have on global travel trends.
“The figures suggest that post-pandemic, Saudi Arabian holiday makers are seeking out tried and trusted destinations where they know exactly what to expect — to be able to make the most out of a long-awaited holiday abroad and to avoid any surprises after 18 months of turmoil and uncertainty.”
JEDDAH: Distance learning was a necessity imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, and in the past 18 months there has been a great deal of debate, globally, about the merits or otherwise of remote education and how well its extended use has served students during these difficult times.
In Saudi Arabia, however, parents appear to be overwhelmingly in favor of distance learning, according to figures quoted by Education Minister Hamad Al-Sheikh. Speaking last month at the Saudi Family Forum, organized by the Family Affairs Council, he said 83 percent of parents believe that remote education has positively affected their children’s mental and psychological health. He added that it is here to stay, in some form, even after the pandemic ends because it has become a pillar of the education system.
Saudi authorities responded to the need to close classrooms during the pandemic by developing the Madrasati, or “My School,” platform as a gateway to keep students at all levels, from first to 12th grade, and their parents connected with schools and teachers in an attempt to provide the best possible online educational experience. To help achieve this it provides access to textbooks, notes, study materials, videos, tutorials and more besides. In the first week after its launch in September 2020, the free platform logged 41 million visits.
Redha Omda, a father of three in Jeddah, told Arab News that teachers are using new techniques to enhance the online learning environment, and applauded the increased use of technology.
“I like how technology is playing a big part in the educational sector,” he said. “Teachers are contacting me through WhatsApp and they are more accessible than before.
Saudi authorities responded to the need to close classrooms during the pandemic by developing the Madrasati, or ‘My School,’ platform as a gateway to keep students at all levels, from first to 12th grade, and their parents connected with schools and teachers in an attempt to provide the best possible online educational experience. To help achieve this it provides access to textbooks, notes, study materials, videos, tutorials and more besides.
“The Madrasati platform is linked to the parent’s Tawakkalna app, which is amazing, and it lets me know everything about my kids. I am also impressed by how my kids are using technology in a way that I did not imagine.”
Bara’a Alfergani, a mother of two living in Jeddah, said that distance learning saves students a lot of time.
“Study at home is better than attending eight hours of classes every day and then coming home with homework to do,” she said. “It is much easier to attend online and do homework at the same place.”
Alfergani added that it also makes it easier for her to keep an eye on her children and be more involved in their education.
The Ministry of Education has indicated that the future of learning in Saudi Arabia will involve some form of hybrid learning, as the concept of distance education has evolved as a result of the global health crisis.
Joud Al-Harbi, a 23-year-old college student from Jeddah, said that online education is a much better option than attending classes.
“It allows me to do many things at the same time,” she said. “I interact with my instructors, and most of my collegemates understand the subjects easily.”
One of her friends has a sick child, she added, and prefers to take classes online because it gives her more time to care for the youngster.
Schools and other educational institutions in the Kingdom closed in March 2020, in the early stages of the pandemic. They began to reopen in September this year, though remote learning remains in place for younger children.
Not all parents agree that distance learning has been a good thing, however. Stay-at-home mom Mashael Al-Sahli said it has had an adverse psychological effect on her two children because it has deprived them of a social life.
“Building social skills starts at school and it is an important factor of the growing process,” she said. “It was something we didn’t feel until schools were closed.”
Not only were her children deprived of the school environment, activities and their friends, she said, even though the online learning system that has been developed is good she nevertheless has found the learning process to be difficult.
“The kids can’t even see the teachers’ gestures or body language,” she added.
Nahedh Almwalad, an elementary school teacher in Jeddah, said that children have a lot of energy and their attention span is limited, which can be a challenge with online education, but added that it can help to teach them patience.
RIYADH: Saudi authorities arrested almost 15,000 people in one week for breaching residency, work, and border security regulations, an official report has revealed.
During the period Nov. 18 to 24, a total of 7,552 arrests were made for violations of residency rules, while 5,699 people were held over illegal border crossing attempts, and a further 1,529 on labor-related issues.
The report’s findings showed that among 429 arrested while trying to cross the border into the Kingdom, 70 percent were Yemeni citizens, 28 percent Ethiopians, and 2 percent other nationalities.
A further 36 people were caught trying to cross into neighboring countries, and 14 were held for involvement in transporting and harboring violators.
The authorities transferred 75,649 offenders to their respective diplomatic missions to obtain travel documents, while 2,048 were transferred to complete their travel reservations and 9,586 were deported.
The Ministry of Interior pointed out that anyone found to be helping people gain illegal entry to the Kingdom, and transporting, or providing shelter for them could face imprisonment for a maximum of 15 years, a fine of up to SR1 million ($260,000), or confiscation of vehicles and property.
Suspected violations can be reported on the toll-free number 911 in the Makkah and Riyadh regions, and 999 or 996 in other regions of the Kingdom.
RIYADH: The Saudi Space Commission recently launched its first specialized training program in the field of space and space technology in cooperation with Airbus Defense and Space.
The program aims to raise the level of education and practical know-how in the space sector for undergraduates and those interested in learning space science.
The commission explained that the training focuses on the basics of space science and technology by implementing professional programs under expert supervision.
The training program is the result of a partnership agreement concluded on the sidelines of the International Astronautical Congress 2022 in October between the Saudi commission and Airbus to train national cadres in the space sector and provide job opportunities for trainees in the field.
It also contributes to achieving the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 by developing national human capabilities and qualifying them for the labor market.
Those wishing to register for the Space101 training program can do so via the following link:
JEDDAH: The governorate of Makkah region, in partnership with the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology, is implementing the Future Champions initiative to develop digital capabilities for young people.
Under the slogan “How to be a role model in the digital world,” and through the sixth session of the Makkah Cultural Forum, the initiative aims to enhance digital citizenship, raise awareness and teach the optimal use of IT and communication.
It also aims to study the awareness of community members in the use of digital world applications and their enjoyment of skills and sound ethics through the use of the Internet and technology by analyzing a set of digital patterns and studying the behavior of individuals in the digital space.
The initiative focuses on analyzing eight basic digital skills, including managing cybersecurity by protecting personal data and addressing cyber-attacks, managing cyber-bullying by promoting awareness of how to combat it, and managing privacy by safely handling personal data when requested on the Internet.
Other skills include sound thinking and owning tools to distinguish between correct and incorrect information, managing digital footprint by understanding its nature and the real consequences, digital empathy with people in the virtual world and knowing their needs and feelings, managing screen time through self-control and time management, and digital national identity and showing it healthily and fairly.
This is achieved through an initial questionnaire to measure basic digital skills among individuals. More than 50,000 participants take part in the questionnaire.
Through its active partnership with the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology, the governorate of Makkah contributes to promoting the concept of digital citizenship and providing digital role models within the forum’s programs by presenting a diverse initiative that takes place in the cities and towns of the region.
It targets all segments of society to develop the region and its digital space in line with national efforts to create a new stage in communications and IT by employing smart systems, digital algorithms, analyzing big data and using the techniques of the Fourth Industrial Revolution in its cities and the work of its sectors to make the Kingdom a leading digital model.
JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia’s southern Soudah mountains are getting a further boost to habitat protection while welcoming tourists and visitors with the signing of a new deal between Soudah Development Co. and the UN Mountain Partnership.
Located in the Asir region in the southwest of the Kingdom, the juniper-covered mountains of Soudah are home to the highest peak in Saudi Arabia, situated more than 3,000m above sea level.
Initiated in 2002, the UN Mountain Partnership, an alliance dedicated to protecting mountain environments around the world, aims to improve the life of the local mountain communities and preserve its ecosystems. It currently consists of more than 400 members spanning governments, companies and civil society groups.
Soudah Development Co. is the first company from the Kingdom and the Gulf region to join this partnership and will allow it to tap into an international wealth of knowledge and resources as it develops a regulatory framework to create a sustainable tourist destination.
“The membership will contribute to positioning Soudah on the international map by giving us access to prospective mountain developers and adventure tourism partners who will recognize how the entity is embracing the same development values and quality standards as major mountain destinations worldwide,” Husameddin Al-Madani, CEO of Soudah Development Co., told Arab News.
Joining this alliance is an important milestone for the company, which will put them a step closer to accomplishing their mission and development project.
This ambitious project will help promote sustainable development, preserve the environment of Soudah, protect wildlife and undertake a major reforestation program, which will remove more than 25,000 tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. 
“This new and exciting membership will enable us to tap into the wealth and diversity of knowledge, information and expertise of mountain developers and organizations around the world and ensure we can benefit from initiatives and programs that reflect our ambitions here in the region from 3,015 meters above sea level,” Al-Madani said.
The area is currently a popular tourist destination among domestic travelers and adventure enthusiasts, offering activities for adventure seekers such as scenic hiking trails to paragliding over the valley, and a serene camping location to stargaze at night.
This ambitious project will help promote sustainable development, preserve the environment of Soudah, protect wildlife and undertake a major reforestation program, which will remove more than 25,000 tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
“Our membership underlines the Kingdom’s commitment to introducing Saudi’s unique and diverse nature and culture to the world. Additionally, the Kingdom is committed to the highest standards of environmental sustainability, having launched the Saudi Green initiative and Middle East Green initiative to set standards for environmental sustainability in all development projects across the Kingdom,” Al-Madani said.
In line with the strategy to protect the environment of Soudah, the company promises to enhance its commitment to wildlife conservation by having a monitoring program that will document the behavior of endangered animals.
Part of this initiative is a new partnership with the Beacon Development Company, a subsidiary of King Abdullah University of Science and Technology.
The agreement will focus on placing a series of hidden cameras in the area to monitor wildlife, which includes the striped hyena, the Arabian wolf, Arabian red fox, Indian crested porcupine and wild cats.
“In the context of Soudah’s unique location, enchanting environment and scenic landscapes, our membership with the Mountain Partnership is another positive step in the right direction that reflects the efforts to preserve nature and the environment in line with the efforts of Saudi Arabia,” Al-Madani said.


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