Saudi Arabia on Friday said it will provide tourist visas, a first for the country, in an attempt to branch out the source of revenue for its economy, AFP reported. The announcement came around two weeks after attacks on two facilities of Saudi Arabia’s state-run oil producer Saudi Aramco.
“Opening Saudi Arabia to international tourists is a historic moment for our country,” the country’s Tourism Minister Ahmed Al-Khateeb said. “Visitors will be surprised...by the treasures we have to share – five UNESCO World Heritage Sites, a vibrant local culture and breathtaking natural beauty.”
Applications will be opened for online tourist visas to 49 nations on Saturday, Khateeb said, adding that the rest can apply through embassies and consulates overseas, according to Bloomberg.
The visas will be available for around $80 (approximately Rs 5,660) without any restrictions for women travelling alone. Female foreign nationals will not have to wear the abaya, the mandatory attire for women in the country, but they will be directed to wear “modest clothing”, the minister said.
Investors from private sectors were also invited to visit and explore the country, which Al-Khateeb said has massive opportunities. He also highlighted plans for airport expansion, addition of hotel rooms, and development of restaurants and other means of entertainment.
Visas in the country are currently only provided to expat workers, their dependents, and Muslim pilgrims visiting holy sites like Mecca and Medina. Only citizens of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, and the United Arab Emirates were allowed to visit Saudi Arabia freely until now.
Opening Saudi Arabia to tourists is one of the main aims of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s Vision 2030 programme. The country also expects to increase international and domestic travel to 100 million a year by the 2030-target. The primary goal of the country, which is now opening up to tourists, is to increase Gross Domestic Product contribution from tourism up to 10% as compared to only 3% currently, according to Gulf News.
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