- The country aims to attract100MN annual tourists by 2030
- Saudi Arabia to open itself up to foreign tourists for the first time
- Saudi will provide electronic visas for travellers
- Foreign women are free to roam in the country with modest clothing
The World Travel Market (WTM) in London this week introduced over 5,000 destinations and hotel brands in the world. Countries like Greece and Italy, are on the spotlight for attracting millions of tourists each year in the WTM. Saudi Arabia has come up with a new vision to compete for its prominence over the Middle eastern section in the tourism sector.
Saudi Arabia isn’t on the bucket list of many travellers, though the country has a set of targets to develop the tourism sector as 100 million holidaymakers a year by 2030. Out of it, around 15 million will be religious pilgrims.
The figures can be highly ambitious for a country with an impeccable international reputation. In past years the country was framed for imprisoning and torturing a women’s rights activist, carrying out public executions, and was responsible for the high-profile murder of the Washington Post columnist Jamal Kashoggi, – said it is opening up to holidaymakers as part of a push to diversify its economy away from oil.
Saudi Arabia is all set to gear up a new phase to the tourism sector by launching tourist visas to attract 100 million tourists and to become one of the top five tourist destinations in the world in line with Saudi Vision 2030.
As a key plan to improve its tourism industry, Saudi Arabia is providing electronic visas, to help foreign visitors come to the Kingdom.
Saudi Arabia will be offering visas on Saturday for the first time to non-religious tourists, days after the country was criticised at the UN for its grim human rights record.
The 90-day visa would be available for 51 countries with a fee of up to USD117 including medical insurance. It can be received from the visa’s platform of the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs, at arrival halls in Saudi airports, or the passport offices at the airports.
Saudi Arabia has well-established hotels and air transit network, that serves millions of Muslim pilgrims who travel to the country to perform the Hajj and Umrah, this new vision of the country will mark a new tourism strategy to the industry.
This new move tally with the rise of spending on inbound tourism to Saudi Arabia by 12 % to USD20 billion in the first eight months of 2019 compared to the same period last year.
Developing the tourism sector in the country is one of the centrepieces of Prince Mohammed’s Vision 2030 reform programme and to prepare the biggest Arab economy for a post-oil era.
The country’s Tourism chief, Ahmed al-Khateeb, said in a statement. “Opening Saudi Arabia to international tourists is a historic moment for our country, visitors will be surprised by the treasures we have to share – five UNESCO world heritage sites, vibrant local culture and breath-taking natural beauty.”
He also said the kingdom would also ease its strict dress code for foreign women, allowing them to go without the ‘abaya’ which is a mandatory dress code for Saudi women. He elaborated the fact that foreign women can be in “modest clothing.”