Over 900 tour guides in Saudi Arabia are joining digital tourism as an inevitable option after the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Saudi Tour Guide Association has recently organized its 7th Saudi Tour Guides Forum, which coincides with International Tourist Guide Day, with the participation of a number of international tourism experts and guides.
The association aims to qualify more than 13,000 tour guides to meet the expected demand until 2030, presenting Saudi Arabia as a competitive destination.
Chairman of the Association Sattam al-Blowi indicated that tourism will need three or four years before returning to its previous conditions, noting that this requires the use of technology and e-programs to aid guides in keeping up with the developments and keep their jobs.
Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat, Blowi said the forum concluded that tourism after the pandemic will not be the same, indicating that there will be great dependence on technology in tourism.
For that, the association invited a number of e-marketing specialists to the forum, he said.
However, the chairman stressed that the technological development will not eliminate the need for “indispensable” tour guides, adding that they target tourists who want “to communicate with people in the local community.”
Professor at King Abdulaziz University Dr. Nadia Qurban explained that COVID-19 led to an unprecedented crisis in the tourism sector worldwide, and the number of tourists have dropped during the past year.
Qurban, who is also a member of the Tour Guide Association, explained to Asharq Al-Awsat that guides are the people most affected by the pandemic, which prompted a large number of them to use technology to practice their profession through YouTube channels or lectures on Zoom.
Qurban noted that technological development enabled the tourism sector to succeed, with the establishment of online tourist sites, pushing innovators to come up with promotional and marketing ideas for themselves as well as for archaeological sites.
She believes that digital solutions in tourist guidance are a necessity for its growth, saying the guides reached their audience largely through social media by organizing virtual tours to different sites and cities.
Tour guides will remain a pillar of the industry because they present a “vital human touch indispensable to tourists regardless of technological development," asserts Qurban.