AbstractTo diversify the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s (KSA) economy and to reduce the country’s reliance on oil, the government launched Vision 2030 in 2016. The plan places significant emphasis on tourism development as a key driver of the Saudi economy and on the involvement of local communities as a key element in planning and developing tourism. However, the literature presents a notable lack of research intended to understand tourism from the perspectives of local people in the Arab region, including the KSA.
With a focus on the Najran Region in the KSA, therefore, this study was aimed at exploring local people’s attitudes towards tourism and their role in tourism planning and related decision-making. To gain insights into the community-level experiences of tourism in the region, qualitative face-to-face interviews were conducted with 31 participants of both genders and diverse age ranges representing groups traditionally associated with tourism employment (e.g. taxi drivers, hoteliers and tour guides) and groups traditionally not associated (e.g. elders, journalists, activists, environmental groups, women’s groups and Bedouins). This study took into account the researcher’s positionality and, through reflexivity, the potential implications of his senior position with the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage. Additional complexities included the difficulties for men to conduct research on women in a patriarchal society and the impacts of tribal connections and religious affiliations, which all produced a number of methodological considerations.
The conversations about tourism and planning reveal power struggles on many levels between generations, men and women, and clerics’ traditional views and others’ more modern values. Furthermore, this study demonstrates the significance of covert matriarchal power within the family and the importance of nepotism (Wasta) in Arab culture. Overall, familial, patriarchal, tribal and religious issues intersect and underpin conversations about tourism development in Najran. This study holds significance as its origins coincided with the launch of the KSA’s Vision 2030, and it is the first research to explore how hegemonic power impacts tourism development in a peripheral geographical context (Najran). This study on tourism development thus serves as a microcosm of the power complexities that fuel tensions between modernity (as represented by tourism development) and traditionalism in Saudi society.
|Date of Award
|Clare Weeden (Supervisor) & Nigel Jarvis (Supervisor)
- tourism development and planning
- community participation
- hegemonic power
- Saudi Arabia