In an unprecedented move and on the occasion of World Tourism Day, Saudi Arabia has officially opened its doors to tourists, launching the electronic tourist visa.
This step falls in line with the Saudi Vision 2030.
Tourism chief Ahmed al-Khateeb affirmed, in a speech during a ceremony held by the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage at Diriyah Friday evening, that “the Kingdom opens its doors to the world at this historic moment.”
“We are a people who welcome visitors and offer hospitality to guests,” he said.
He added that foreign investors have so far agreed to invest SAR115 billion (USD30 billion) in the tourism sector, an indication of confidence in the Saudi market and its promising opportunities.
Since launching Saudi Vision 2030, the Kingdom has been marketing itself as a global tourist destination, and has inaugurated giant tourism projects and introduced regulations to lure investments in tourism. In that regard, the Saudi cabinet has also approved the general strategy for the development of national tourism.
Khateeb considered that world heritage sites are only part of the rich culture and tourism areas in the Kingdom, noting that there are 10,000 historic sites across the country.
Citizens of all countries can now ask for the tourist visa. But the nationals of 49 countries would be able to receive it electronically or upon arriving at the kingdom. He stressed that tourism is not restricted to visitors but extends to investors in the sector.
Kickstarting tourism is one of the centerpieces of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s Vision 2030 reform program to prepare the biggest Arab economy for a post-oil era.
The tourism chief stated that the target of the latest decision is to receive 100 million visitors annually by 2030, compared to the current 41 million. The government expects that by 2030, the Kingdom would rank among the top five destinations for tourists with revenues of up to 10 percent instead of three percent of the national income.
The countries were classified into group A and B. Tourists coming from Group A countries may get the visa through the e-platform or via applying at the Saudi passports offices upon arrival. Tourists coming from Group B countries may apply via Saudi agencies.
The applicant should not be below 18 years old, or else he should be accompanied by his parent. The passport must also be valid for a minimum of six months. The visa fees are SAR440 (USD177) distributed as follows: SAR300 for issuing the visa, SAR140 for medical insurance, and other fees for VAT and the transaction.
The target of 100 million tourists annually would increase the annual capacity of Saudi airports to 150 million.
Khateeb has said abayas will not be mandatory but modest dress is. He also indicated that alcohol remains banned.