The Touristic Enterprises Company (TEC) launched its latest summer activities with the opening of the Shams Beach (Sun Beach). The company said it decided to refurbish and redesign the beach next to the swimming pool complex on the Gulf coast as an ideal destination for the entire family during this season. The company also said a number of ambitious projects are being studied in collaboration with a number of consultants and international institutions in line with its long-term strategic development plans.
But the beach came under attack on social media, and most comments were negative and mocking. Twitter users compared this local entertainment project with similar projects in Dubai and Jeddah. Some expressed dissatisfaction with the level of the games on “Sun Beach”. One person commented the beach was more likely to be operated by a chalet and not a government company. Another wondered if this is a real tourism project.
The announcement of the “Sun Beach” reminded people of the opening of the “Water City” in August 2016, which was also confronted by a wave of ridicule and anger. The minister of information and youth had opened that project and faced much criticism, especially with the exaggerated media campaigns by the ministry of information to market this venture.
I think that Kuwait, despite the heat and bad climate, has elements if used well. These could be an encouraging factor for tourism, but the problem is the absence of a tourism strategy which could determine what kind of tourism we want to promote. Countries that place tourism as a priority for increasing income, for example, have a clear vision of what can be provided to tourists and what are their needs. Kuwait is still closed to tourism development in the absence of such will and a lack of a competitive product that could attract tourists.
I do not know what can be even offered to citizens and expats to stay in the country. People do not mind spending money in Dubai or Oman, for example, for a short vacation, even if it is expensive, because there is entertainment for the entire family and their needs and privacy are also respected.
I can’t think of tourist attractions here other than the Kuwait Towers and Souq Mubarakiya, as there are no entertainment and cultural programs provided by hotels for tourists, other than shopping complexes. Even the old airport does not have any displays of Kuwaiti culture, products, exhibits or places to visit. So the visitor only wants to get out of the airport quickly to find a taxi or a friend. Even the national holidays, which are supposed to forge a national tourism identity, are an opportunity to escape from the country because of the phenomenon of water wastage.
Kuwait has a large number of decent hotels, restaurants and cruises, but it remains to be decided whether we really want tourists or not and what we have to offer to them. Is it cultural or recreational or maritime or business tourism? So far, there is no orientation. It is also necessary to activate the role of the private sector in the field of tourism development. I think the people’s attitude to the Sun Beach is normal because people compare what is offered to them here with neighboring Gulf countries and feel that we are not lacking anything to be like them!
By Muna Al-Fuzai