Want to travel to Saudi Arabia? Tourist visas to resume soon…

The Kingdom is set to welcome 100 million visits to the country by 2030…

Saudi Arabia plans to resume issuing tourist visas very soon after being suspended due to coronavirus travel restrictions, Gulf Business reported on May 27, citing unnamed sources familiar with the matter.

The Kingdom is also working with other Middle Eastern and European nations on a unified protocol to facilitate travel, according to an official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss plans that have not been made public.

Tourism is a key pillar of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s ambitious reform strategy to reduce the economy’s dependence on oil. It aims to increase total tourism spending in the Kingdom – by local citizens and foreigners – to $46.6 billion in 2020 from $27.9 billion in 2015.

Saudi Arabia, which opened its doors to foreign tourists in September 2019 by launching a new visa regime, wants the sector to contribute 10 per cent of gross domestic product by 2030.

The country has been working towards revamping its tourism and entertainment sectors by promoting its coastline and Unesco-recognised heritage sites.

The Red Sea Project is also a much-anticipated tourist destination being developed in the Kingdom, where the ultra-luxurious and sustainable development is set to host resorts on 50 islands off the coast of the Red Sea. It will also be accessible by 80 per cent of the world’s population in less than eight hours.

A mega-theme park is also being developed, known as Qiddiyah, an hour’s drive from Riyadh. It expects to attract 1.5 million visitors each year when the first phase opens in 2022.

After limiting incoming tourism in February 2020, authorities suspended all incoming and outgoing travel to contain the spread of the virus. It has since opened its air, land, and sea borders and resumed international flights for citizens on May 17, although entry from 13 countries is banned.

The 13 countries facing the ban include Afghanistan, Armenia, Belarus, Democratic Congo, India, Iran, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Syria, Turkey, Venezuela, and Yemen.

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