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Saudi Arabia Opens to Tourists

Saudi Arabia Opens to Tourists

Friday, 27 September, 2019 - 05:45
File photo of Saudi capital Riyadh | AFP

Saudi Arabia has opened its doors to foreign tourists, launching a new visa regime for 49 countries and appealing to foreign companies to invest in a sector it hopes will contribute 10 percent of gross domestic product by 2030.


"Opening Saudi Arabia to international tourists is a historic moment for our country," tourism chief Ahmed al-Khateeb said in a statement.


"Visitors will be surprised... by the treasures we have to share -- five UNESCO World Heritage Sites, a vibrant local culture and breathtaking natural beauty."


Saudi Arabia will open applications for online tourist visas to citizens of 49 countries on Saturday, Khateeb was quoted as saying.


Saudi Arabia last year began issuing temporary visas to visitors to attend sporting and cultural events in a bid to kickstart tourism.


The government says it hopes tourism will contribute up to 10 percent of the gross domestic product by 2030.


It says by 2030 it aims to attract up to 100 million annual visits by both domestic and foreign tourists.


Visas will be available online for about $80 (£65), with no restrictions for unaccompanied women as in the past. Access to the Muslim holy cities of Makkah and Medina is restricted.


More details, including which countries are eligible, were expected later on Friday. Khateeb said China, Japan, Europe, and the United States were among the top outbound targets.


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