The characteristics, motivations and activities of visitors to Half Moon Beach, Saudi Arabia
Half Moon Beach is one of the popular beaches in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia and is located on the Persian Gulf (Arabian Gulf). Literature and knowledge regarding Saudi recreation and tourism, particularly marine and coastal recreation and tourism, is very limited. There is no published research or studies on recreation and tourism at beaches in Saudi Arabia. Therefore, this exploratory case study is the first to examine the recreational use of beaches in Saudi Arabia and provide empirical data on coastal and marine recreation and tourism in the country. A self-reply questionnaire-based study was undertaken between 20 December 2014 and 27 February 2015. The study investigated beach visitors’ (n=280) demographics, characteristics, motivations and activities. Results revealed that visitors were predominantly Saudis (95%) from the Eastern Province who visited Half Moon Beach for the purpose of enjoying the beauty of nature, the sea and sand and mainly came to the beach to relax. In this study, visitors (39%) were mostly satisfied with the overall experience of the beach visit but other visitors (23%) expressed negative comments about their beach visits. They were dissatisfied (23%) with a number of aspects, primarily the low level of cleanliness of the beach and facilities, lack of services and facilities and the limited number of sea and beach-related activities. Furthermore, visitors mostly (79%) supported more development of coastal and marine activities at the beach. They favoured development of additional activities for a number of reasons such as encouraging local and domestic tourism in the area, increasing the level of enjoyment for visitors and allowing visitors to discover the sea and enjoy nature. However, a number (3%) of visitors disagreed with more development for a number of reasons; primarily they were concerned with effects of these developments on the relaxing and quiet nature of the beach. They were also concerned with the effects of these developments on the natural environment. Furthermore, visitors (47%) suggested that activities should carefully target families and | P a g e ii children and provide options that engage the whole family. Visitors (37%) also suggested that females are an important segment. They should be targeted with activities that respect their cultural and religious limitations and give them more chances to enjoy the beach visits. Respondents (35%) suggested that development of new activities at the beach should be accompanied by clear safety regulations and professional and educated operators that ensure high quality and safe activities for visitors. Understanding visitors’ characteristics, motivations and satisfaction with the activities of one the popular coastal areas in Saudi Arabia will help inform future development plans that take into consideration visitors’ needs and wants and ensure careful improvements of the area based on the specific aspects described and explained by visitors around the beach experience.