Saudi Arabia imposes ban on smoking

Travellers who smoke will no longer be able to do so in tourist locations in Saudi Arabia.

The Saudi government has brought in a ban on smoking at tourist locations in the nation. Saudi Arabia’s General Commission for Tourism and Antiquities said that the ban has been imposed on all tourism facilities. The ban includes hotels, furnished apartments, travel agencies and all closed areas where tourism activities are organised. This means that tourists who are hoping to smoke may need to review their travel plans and make new arrangements for smoking in private.

The ministries directive has asked staff working in the tourism sector to strictly abide by the new regulations. Authorities have said that severe measures will be taken against those who violate the new directive. The commission said that the decision was taken to prevent smoking in all closed public areas in the kingdom, but the new regulation is also considered ironic because Saudi Arabia is one of the world’s leading cigarette markets. Some parts of the government have been aggressively pushing for restrictions on smoking in public.

Last month, municipal authorities in the Saudi Red Sea resort of Jeddah shut down 242 restaurants and cafes for serving shisha. According to official figures, Saudi Arabia is home to six million smokers, including around 800,000 teenagers, mainly intermediate and high school students, and 600,000 women.

The nation, which is a known disciplinarian for its religious laws and convictions, does not take violations leniently and it is expected that those who flout the rules will be punished severely.

Saudi Arabia to focus on tourism initiatives

The government of Saudi Arabia is undertaking major initiatives to develop tourism in the country.

The country, which in tourism terms has been lagging behind other nations in the GCC because of cultural and other factors that are often at odds with recreational tourism, is now looking at ways of enhancing its tourism image. In particular, the government is exploring means to make Makkah, Saudi Arabia’s most popular tourism destination, a major tourist hub.

The government has also relaxed its traditionally conservative stance and is to sanction more recreational projects to attract tourists to the nation. According to prince Sultan bin Salman, chairman of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities, the nation is concerned by the low tourist inflows compared to other GCC nations and wants to enhance the status of Saudi Arabia as a prominent tourism hub for recreational activities.

The prince said that the government had already identified key issues that need to be resolved before the nation can be projected onto the region’s tourism map. The government is also expecting tourism to provide more job opportunities for its people.

Speaking to the Al Arabiya channel, prince Sultan said, ‘Saudi tourism is a big project. We need to develop infrastructure to promote tourism and we need greater private sector investment in the sector. We have already completed a number of projects for providing integrated tourism services. It will take time for us to complete some of the major projects.’

The prince also said that tourism would play a major role in creating more jobs and strengthening the national economy. He said, ‘Tourism is the second largest provider of jobs, accounting for 26 percent, and Saudis are happy to work in this vital sector.’