Tourism development at the Al-Hijr Archaeological Site, Saudi Arabia: SME sentiments and emerging concerns

Abdulmohsen Alahmadi, Gareth Butler, Gerti Szili

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


This study was designed to investigate the impacts of tourism development at the Al-Hijr Archaeological Site, Saudi Arabia. Al-Hijr was inscribed as the country’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2008 but received little attention as a tourist destination until the launch of the Saudi Vision 2030 strategy in 2016, which positioned heritage tourism sites as important catalysts in the long-term transition to a post-oil economy. Via the implementation of semi-structured interviews with local tourism SME owners and senior managers between January and February 2020, several exploratory observations were made. According to study participants, who typically framed the impacts of tourism development from the perspective of their local communities as well as those of businesses, the genesis of tourism had presented several paradoxes. Whilst the UNESCO listing helped foster community support for tourism due to new economic opportunities, the opening of Al-Hijr to international tourists and the proposed scale of development proposals raised numerous concerns, including fears of ‘cultural erosion’ and unsustainable growth. This paper therefore positions itself as an important and novel step in identifying local SME stakeholder perspectives on embryonic tourism development at Al-Hijr and offers recommendations to mitigate emerging concerns.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)533-547
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Heritage Tourism
Issue number5
Early online date27 May 2022
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • Al-Hijr
  • community engagement
  • heritage tourism
  • stakeholder
  • sustainability
  • tourism development


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