Friday, June 25, 2010

When Saudis hate Saudi tourists abroad

http://snarla.files.wordpress.com/2007/01/saudi-women.jpg

Saudis deliberately avoid destinations popular with tourists from the Kingdom, travel agents say.

With the summer vacation approaching, many Saudi families are choosing locations where the number of Saudi and Gulf tourists is very low.

Once popular locations, like Cairo and Kuala Lumpur, are not favored anymore by those from the Kingdom because of the increasing number of Saudi tourists visiting every year. Travel agencies confirmed that most Saudi tourists now look for alternative destinations.

Mohammed Al-Mazmoumi, an employee at a private environmental company, prefers not to interact with Saudis in countries he visits. “Whenever I decide to travel, I ask the travel agency to recommend locations with low numbers of Saudi and Gulf tourists,” he said.

“Some of the behavior of Saudi tourists abroad reflects the bad image people have about my country. Most of them do not respect the laws of the counties they visit, not to mention their shameful behavior.”

Al-Mazmoumi was in London last year. He said Saudi and Gulf tourists do not respect traffic laws, throw garbage on the ground, talk loudly in public places and smoke in no-smoking areas. He said that such behavior is widely criticized by local residents.

Abdullah Al-Saad, a private sector employee, does not like to see Saudis when he is abroad on vacation. He prefers to live and experience the culture of the country he visits, leaving behind his own culture.

“When I was in Australia on vacation, I met a Saudi man with his wife who was wearing a black abaya,” he said. “The husband distanced himself from his wife when he saw a number of Saudi tourists walking nearby. It seemed to me that he was ashamed of the way his wife was dressed. I do not understand why Saudis act like that? If he feels ashamed of his wife, then he should leave her behind and travel alone.”

Some Saudis avoid flying local airlines so they do not have to sit with other families from the Kingdom.

Local resident Abu Ahmad said the trouble with Saudi tourists starts right from boarding the plane. “They are disorganized and cause delays, changing seats, crying children, fighting sometimes or staring at others,” he said.

“If their behavior is like this before the airplane takes off, imagine what they would be like when they are in another country. When Saudis are abroad they do not act like tourists. You rarely see them visiting museums, monuments and exhibitions. It is either restaurants or shopping. In my opinion this is not the way tourists visiting another country should behave.”

Emad Ibrahim, who supervises the reservations department at Rixon Tour, said that most Saudi families ask his company to make a hotel reservation far away from the city center. “They are ready to pay more just to avoid meeting Saudi or Gulf tourists,” said Ibrahim.

Jawaher Hakami, travel and tourism consultant at Shami Holidays, confirmed that a large number of Saudi families prefer to spend their summer vacation abroad without being noticed by other Saudis. “Most Saudi families tend to travel to foreign countries because of their fear of meeting other Saudi or Gulf tourists. Most passengers ask us to recommend a country less popular with Saudis,” she said.

“It is well known that most Saudis, especially singles, travel to Egypt, Lebanon, Syria and Morocco during the summer. The huge number of single Saudis bothers most Saudi families.”

By DIANA AL-JASSEM