More than a hundred years ago, Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore said: “I have spent a fortune travelling to distant shores and looked at lofty mountains and boundless oceans, and yet I haven't found time to take a few steps from my house to look at a single dew drop on a single blade of grass.”
When he wrote these famous lines, Tagore was being philosophical and nationalistic, also a tad self-depreciating – but he certainly wasn’t talking about the tectonic shift we see today towards domestic tourism.
Yet his words ring so true today, in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic, when international travel comes to a standstill. With closed borders and struggling airlines, experts around the world are looking up to domestic travel as a means to kickstart the recovery process, when travel restrictions finally come to an end.
Domestic travel is great; it keeps the money within the country, providing much-needed economic boost, doesn’t require hours of travelling on the road, no border checks and no applying for visas.
Domestic travel is great; it keeps the money within the country, providing much-needed economic boost, doesn’t require hours of travelling on the road, no border checks and no applying for visas
Domestic tourism is also more affordable for today’s traveller, majority of whom are expected to be careful of their expenditure in the near future. Domestic tourism also primes the industry for international travellers when cross-border and airline travel open up.
The problem with domestic travel in Gulf countries?
Not every country in the Gulf was created equal. Not every border contains within itself a well-developed domestic tourism product.
No points for guessing that within the GCC, the UAE comes out on top when we consider staycation products that are ready or will be ready once all the travel restrictions are lifted - whether we consider its wide range of accommodation options or entertainment choices.
Other Gulf countries have also been developing their product as well. Motorsport has become a national symbol for the island country of Bahrain, being the first GCC country to host Formula 1. Last year, Bahrain saw the much-anticipated opening of ‘The Merchant House’, a boutique hotel owned by the Campbell-Gray Hotel group, and Dive Bahrain, the world’s largest underwater theme park.
Nature-blessed Oman has popular staycation options in Salalah, which interestingly and conveniently becomes green, wet and cool during the dry summer months the rest of us experience in the GCC. There are also accommodation options in capital Muscat and on Jebel Akhdar mountain an hour’s drive away from the city.
Even before Saudi Arabia’s megaprojects are ready, the kingdom is used to a steady flow of domestic travellers for leisure. According to the data provided by the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), in 2017, the number of domestic travellers in Saudi Arabia amounted to approximately 18.4 million, compared to 13.3 million in 2008. These numbers do not include business travel but only leisure travellers.
Quarantined inside our burrows for months, we have been forced to slow down and appreciate things we always took for granted, our mobility is now governed by government. This mandatory stop to our movement, albeit for our own good and the greater good, has affected people deeply. While some cannot wait to go back to travelling for leisure or to be united with their families, some have happily resigned to couch surfing and the world of Zoom calls and digital fam trips. Here’s hoping they will be reminded of their undying passion and blind love for travel when the time is right.
TTN is the most established trade publication in the Middle East distributed on a controlled circulation basis to members of the travel and tourism industry.
Published monthly by Al Hilal Publishing and Marketing Group, the region’s foremost trade publisher, TTN is aimed at professionals in the industry, from travel agents to airline and hotel personnel.
TTN provides in-depth and extensive coverage of relevant issues in the Middle East and North Africa as well as in other parts of the world. Travel related news, analysis, and new appointments together with information on up-coming exhibitions, marketing and promotional campaigns are presented in an innovative and striking colour tabloid.
Every issue also contains a collation of international and regional news and topical features of interest to readers.