Saudi female drivers have taken to the roads for the first time in history—and the development has largely been met with positive sentiments in the GCC, according to social media analytics from SEMrush.
The digital marketing platform analyzed more than 20,000 tweets in Saudi Arabia and the U.A.E. during the first week Saudi women were officially permitted to start driving in June 2018, and tabulated positive and negative responses.
Among Arabic tweets it tracked in Saudi Arabia, SEMrush identified 43% as containing a positive response and 13% as reacting negatively, with the rest considered neutral. In the U.A.E., 47% of Twitter users reacted positively and 1% negatively.
Allowing Saudi women the right to drive has been celebrated globally as a landmark step towards achieving gender equality in the kingdom, and comes as part of a series of social and economic reforms in the country.
It could also have a noticeable impact on the region’s economy. The total number of female drivers in Saudi Arabia (population 32 million) is projected to reach 3 million in 2020, according to a PwC report from earlier this year, affecting everything from car sales to motor insurance, car leasing and driving schools. Already, 120,000 Saudi women have applied for driving licenses, according to the country’s ministry of interior.
With a new segment of potential customers entering the market, PwC expects car sales and car leasing to pick up substantially, with an estimated annual growth rate of 9% and 4% until 2025, respectively.
Meanwhile, SEMrush points to new business opportunities in the GCC’s rental car industry, driven by tourists from the kingdom. “It is up to the GCC rent-a-car sector to decide how to capture this new opportunity using innovative services tailored to Saudi women,” said Adam Zeidan, a spokesperson for SEMrush in the region.
Ride-hailing services Uber and Careem are getting in on the action too, with both announcing they will begin preparations and training for women drivers to join their workforces.