Earlier this month, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman (MBS) braced 13 hours of flight on his 11,000 miles long journey to meet with US President Donald Trump. However, MBS is not alone in making the long journey, thousands of his compatriots love visiting the US.
According to statements made by Ali Al Ahmed, a Saudi citizen who has hosted dozens of friends and relatives during the 20 years he spent in the US, one of the reasons why his compatriots like travelling to the States is because of its natural beauty, shopping in Bloomingdale’s and other popular high-end department stores, and also the beautiful sandy beaches of California and Florida.
Ahmed also told Arab News that many Saudis come to the US for education or for medical treatment, but he said there are plenty of tourists too, many of whom are young couples vacationing in the US. He said other reasons also include the nature, seas, rivers as well as good attractions like Disneyland.
According to the US National Travel and Tourism Office, Saudi Arabia is the 30th country whose citizens choose the US as a tourism destination. Saudi visitor numbers to the United States jumped by 4 percent in 2015 compared to the figures of 2014. 286,000 Saudis went to the US in 2015 compared to the 276,000 that did so a year earlier.
While the 4 percent jump represented a good growth in the number of Saudis visiting the US, the number of Saudis visiting the US in 2017 was a dismal 39,000. Analysts believe that the slump in visitor numbers is directly linked to President Trump’s presidency.
Tourism experts have coined the phrase “Trump slump” in describing the drop in US bound travel. Travelers from the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region were especially affected by strict travel conditions in what has come to be known as the so called ‘travel ban on Muslims’.
During the period March to October 2017, there was a 21 percent drop in visitor figures from predominantly Muslim countries compared to the same period a year earlier.
However, CEO of ForwardKeys, Olivier Jagger, a data analysis firm that looks at 17 million flight booking transactions a day, said the “Trump slump” may have bottomed out and Saudi tourism is picking up again.
Jagger disclosed that 2017 flight data shows that Saudi arrivals in the US dropped by 10 percent over what it were a year before. This year there has been something of a recovery, with arrivals up by 6 percent in the first quarter over what it was in the same period of 2017.
Jagger is optimistic about future travel outlook from the MENA region as bookings for the second and third quarters of 2018 are 15.7 percent ahead of where they were at this time last year.