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Saudi Tourism Authority's Fahd Hamidaddin spoke about changing perceptions being a key part of his job.

“Perception” was one of the key topics discussed by Saudi Tourism Authority CEO Fahd Hamidaddin during a roundtable discussion at the Arabian Travel Market (ATM) conference in Dubai.

Perception of safety for female travelers is an issue he was particularly focused on.

“One thing we’re not doing well… [is talking about] safety for women, we should tell the world more about how safe Saudi is [for women],” he said. “We’re going to tell the world how safe it is for our mothers, sisters and daughters, our female travelers.”

Hamidaddin’s comments follow several years of (relative) progress for Saudi women, who gained the right to drive in 2018 and to be tour guides in 2019. As the country seeks to become a leading travel destination, the percentage of women who make up the tourism workforce has reached 45%.

It was in 2019 that Saudi let women stay in hotels by themselves rather than with a male guardian, as they are referred to in the kingdom. Non-Saudi women are not required to show “proof of relationship” with a man when checking into a hotel.

In December 2019, restaurants were no longer required to have separate entrances for men and women, and some ceased to enforce segregation.

Beginning in June 2021, Saudi Arabia allowed single, divorced, or widowed women to live independently without permission from their “male guardians.”

Hamidaddin said 44% of STA’s 600 staff are women.

Speaking about Saudi’s tourism push more broadly, he said: “Let people come and make their own judgments. No matter what we claim, it’s not the same [as seeing it]. By 2030, a lot of perceptions can change. A lot of people may still say it might not be safe, people can always find an angle to dislike.”

“If you ask me what has worked best in promoting Saudi, it’s our own people.”

Earlier this year, Intrepid launched its first tours run by Saudi women, for Saudi women.

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Tags: middle east report, saudi news, Saudi Tourism, sta, tourism, travel for women, Travel Trends

Photo credit: Two women in Neom, Saudi Arabia. Credit: Unsplash.

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