JEDDAH: Saudi travelers planning summer vacations have been urged to show caution in their choice of destination, with many opting for new locations following recent travel bans.
As Muslims across the globe will celebrate the Eid Al-Adha holiday on July 20, many residents of the Kingdom made plans to vacation in Dubai as well as other cities in the UAE and nearby areas.
However, on Saturday, the Ministry of Interior issued a travel ban to and from three countries, including the UAE, forcing many to cancel bookings.
Although people are searching for new vacation destinations, travel agents are advising against all but essential international travel.
“We recommend people avoid travel unless it’s absolutely necessary,” said Yousef A. from One World Travel Agency said. “People should especially avoid countries with more severe variants of COVID-19, such as the UAE.”
He encouraged Saudis and residents to enjoy their holidays locally.
“A lot of what people are chasing in Dubai, for example, is provided here in the Kingdom. There are many different activities, including 24-hour cinemas, hiking and camping events, cruises, boat trips, concerts and safaris,” he said. “It’s also safer to stay in Saudi.”
Yousef said that clients already vacationing in the UAE, as well as those traveling for business, “are now stuck because of the ban.”
Mohammed Khaled, from the Luxuria travel agency, sympathizes with those who want to vacation outside the Kingdom.
“I have too many clients telling me that they’re beginning to feel confined and a bit suffocated,” he said.
“I can understand the need for a break from your environment and a change in routine. However, people should still travel smart by being cautious and avoiding countries with high numbers of coronavirus cases.”
Among those traveling for the Hajj holiday is Jeddah resident Basma Hassoubah, 23, who is heading to Portugal — a destination her family frequently visits.
“Portugal has become like a second home to us — we go there whenever we can,” she said. “We haven’t been there since 2019 due to the pandemic. I’ve really missed it.”
Hassoubah said that she needed a break from work and her surroundings.
“Living out of Saudi for over four years, then being under lockdown for more than a year was overwhelming. On top of that, work has been hectic, so that has further fueled my urge to have a vacation and recharge.”
Hassoubah said that she is excited, but also apprehensive, at the prospect of holidaying in Portugal.
“It’s very scary. Portugal doesn’t have a good handle on cases like Saudi does, so I am nervous. I will be avoiding Lisbon and any other hotspots and, of course, I will have to be extra careful, more so than I am here.”
Yara Mohammed, 27, from Jeddah, is planning a trip to Italy. “Although it will be really nice to go with my family and have a break from everything, I’m still terrified of being stuck in Italy the same way people in the UAE are stuck,” she said.
“My family travels to Italy often, and we like discovering new islands or places — Sardinia was on our list this time.”
However, Mohammed said that if flights to Italy or other parts of Europe are suspended, she will not feel disappointed.
“I am a strong believer that everything happens for a reason and the ban could be a blessing in disguise. Besides, I would rather be safe than sorry, and these travel bans are meant to prevent the spread of the stronger variants.”
Saudi tourism spending slumped 61.5 percent in 2020 as pandemic struckSaudi tourism app links beneficiaries to service providers