Commodore, Royal Saudi Navy (Retired)
Let me say it loud and clear: The behavior of some of the tourists from Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf states is not acceptable and has to change. Following the economic boom of 1970’s, hundreds of thousands of tourists from the region began coming to the western part of the world, mainly in British and French cities, to spend vacations during summer and spring breaks. The numbers grew, as after Lebanese civil war most tourists who would prefer going to Beirut turned to Europe. The Gulf tourists have been generally big spenders, higher than any other average tourists. The best thing with them was that they would never stay behind. Therefore the host counties never had to cope with their any overstaying issue or their subsequent illegal employment. For this reason, Gulf citizens are among the privileged to get a visa to any European country even after the introduction of the Schengen visa. They were quite welcome there. Tourism is an important sector for both the tourist and the host country. You learn from each other and you appreciate other people’s way of living. And importantly, you relax from the daily work routine. To be honest, Europe has been very hospitable to all the tourists including those coming from the Gulf region. What concerns me now is their gradually changed behavior. Despite the fact that the majority of the Gulf tourists are well-behaved, yet a small number who are ignorant can change the general attitude in the host country. During the past years, we have seen a welcome gesture by many European resorts that adapted to the needs of the Gulf tourists, which must be appreciated. Thus we see there Arabic restaurants coming up with Halal meat; places allocated for daily prayers and several such things. But, during the past few weeks there are reports on social media, newspapers and television citing irresponsible behavior by certain tourists with reference to their not sticking to rules of the countries they are visiting. It is also said that they do not take proper care in public places and parks, leaving garbage and food; and kids left unattended playing in areas that should be supervised by adults. Such behavior will give a bad image to all tourists coming from the Gulf region, though it is committed by a few. But at the end of the day, other tourists, who are law-abiding, pay for the behavior of those few. They may face visa restrictions and higher charges for apartments etc. What’s more annoying is the outlandish behavior of the elite class. Ostensibly to show off in Europe, they ship their super expensive cars to places like London and Paris with license plates bearing the number of Gulf states. This is not funny or amusing. People will not command respect just because they have cars, but it is one’s civilized behavior and good manners that will earn respects. Driving a fancy BMW in Munich will hardly fascinate a German, because it is them who have built the BMW. Similarly other cars too, like Ferrari for instance, are not an object of attraction any more in cities of Paris or Italy. It is highly unlikely that these shiny European cars having shipped all the way from Gulf region will impress Europeans. It is your hard working countrymen and women who will be offended. Such behavior of these few tourists can ruin the vacations of other tourists. I am more concerned because I don’t want the tourists coming from the Gulf region tagged with bad image. Also, the people expect visitors to their countries to act in good manners, so, it is important to act in good manners when you are visiting other countries. And it doesn’t take any big effort to build a positive image about your country. Written by Abdulateef Al-Mulhim. Our Tourists’ Behavior in Europe reprinted with permission of Arab News and Abdulateef Al-Mulhim.