Saudi Arabia spotlights winter adventures in push for tourism: 'See the desert carpeted in snow'

The kingdom is looking to attract international visitors, as well as domestic tourists, to its varied landscapes

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With cool winter weather sweeping the region, the Saudi Tourism Authority has launched a campaign to spotlight the kingdom’s growing number of outdoor activities.

The campaign highlights 17 locations around the kingdom where there are more than 300 experiences on offer – from desert camping to snowy desert hikes – from 200 private companies.

Tourism Minister Ahmed Al Khateeb said the Saudi Winter Season, launched on Thursday, December 10, will run through to March and is aimed not just at residents and nationals of the kingdom, but seeks to highlight a variety of landscapes to visitors from across the GCC.

"Local, residents and GCC visitors will have an exciting range of activities through Saudi Arabian destinations that are perfect for the cooler months of the year," said Abdullah Al Dakhil, a spokesman for the Saudi Winter Season.

The spokesman said visitors can enjoy the temperate climate of the Red Sea for winter sun and sand. They can explore Saudi’s national parks and ward off the evening chill with a roaring campfire beneath the glorious desert stars, or head for the colder climes of Saudi’s mountainous north for a chance to see the desert carpeted in fresh snow.

Mr Al Khateeb also said the tourism sector was working closely with the health ministry to ensure visitors were kept as safe as possible during the pandemic.

Like many countries around the world, Saudi Arabia shut its borders earlier this year to prevent the spread of Covid-19. The move, while bringing down numbers of infections in the kingdom, took a toll on the economy – particularly on the hospitality and tourism sectors.

For years, Saudi Arabia was largely closed off to non-religious visitors but last year launched tourist visas in a bid to attract more people to the kingdom.

Tourists can obtain a 90-day, multiple-entry visa to enter the country and visitors from 49 countries, including the US, UK, Canada and Australia, can apply online or receive visas on arrival.

Previously, the majority of visitors were undertaking Umrah or Hajj pilgrimages.

Saudi Arabia has five Unesco World Heritage Sites and has been spending millions on developing infrastructure to attract more visitors including, putting on extensive festivals and building accommodation and attraction.