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Jeddah - Yasmine El Tohamy - 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.
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.”
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