Riyadh, Asharq al Awsat – A study entitled: "Seasonality: Issues and Solutions," conducted in 2004 by ”MAS,” the National Center for Information and Research, affiliated with the Higher Authority for Tourism that was founded in 2003, revealed that there are many obstacles for tourism in Saudi Arabia. These obstacles include the unjustified presence of the Committee for Promoting Virtue and Preventing Vice at tourist sites, a rise in prices, restrictions on forms of entertainment, fears of terrorist attacks, long distances between sites, the rises in the costs of domestic flights, and the behavior of some young men. Another factor is the lack of tourist programs offered and the unorganized nature of those that are available. In addition, Saudi Arabia is not well known as a tourist destination.
The study provided quotes two Saudi men that are illustrative of the general attitude towards tourism in Saudi Arabia. One young man from Riyadh said, "It is better to sleep than to spend a holiday in Saudi." Another man from Jeddah said, "The outcome of a holiday in Saudi is nothing but headache." The study noted that the average Saudi would take one long holiday annually. This vacation is usually taken in the summer or during the two main religious festivals of Eid-ul-fitr and Eid-ul-Adha. The main reasons for Saudis to visit other countries are to escape the Saudi heat, to enjoy the range of entertainment and for personal freedom.
The study also revealed that most Saudis prefer to take their vacations during the summer months abroad if they are financially able to. However, Saudis will usually spend Eid-ul-Fitr, the festival at the end of the fasting month of Ramadan, in Saudi Arabia with their families. Eid ul-Adha is usually celebrated abroad.
The study further highlighted that school holidays, finance, employment, the climate, and the duration of holidays are all important factors that play a part in the decision of where to holiday for a Saudi family. The study revealed that most people believe that the school holidays given for the Eid festivals are not long enough for families to go abroad.
Most of the interviewees stated that they preferred vacations abroad than in Saudi Arabia due to the several psychological, moral, and material benefits of foreign tourism. The study made it clear that the prevailing perception of local tourism is that it is expensive, that its services and products are poor, that it lacks adequate information concerning historical sites and other attractions, and that it is not responsive to the needs of young people for freedom as there are many restrictions. Some even described local tourism as backwards in comparison to that of other countries in the Gulf region. However, some noted that security and safety for families is the main positive aspect of local tourism. Moreover, the study showed that Saudis prefer to holiday with their families and that Ramadan is the most popular month for taking short vacations which are usually spent in hometowns, visiting holy places or natural tourist attractions.