Saudi Arabia will start issuing tourist visas from September 27 according to a number of sources. The visas will be valid for 90-day periods and will be available to around 50 nationalities.
Although the government have not officially confirmed the plans, the launch of the visa is being widely reported by national and international newspapers. The government has previously outlined its “Vision 2030” plan which aims to open up the country to tourism.
For a limited period last year, the government made online tourist visas available for foreigners attending special events. This move was seen as a trial run for the tourist visas by industry experts.
The Saudi economy is currently oil-dependent and the government has identified tourism as an area which can be developed. Travel experts say tourism could add more than $100 billion a year to the Saudi economy, accounting for roughly 10% of their G.D.P.
Imad Damrah, managing director of Colliers Saudi Arabia, said tourist visas would have a significant impact on the country. “It will be a game changer for tourism, leisure and entertainment in Saudi Arabia,” he said.
“It will not just encourage more new people to come, but it will be easier for people who have already decided to come,” he said.
A Watershed Moment in Saudi History
Saudi Arabia is one of the most difficult countries to obtain a visa for so the launch of the tourist visa will mark a turning point in the nation’s history. At the moment, the most common type of visa available to foreigners is the Hajj visa, designed for religious pilgrimages.
According to industry sources, the government will hold an event on September 27 to showcase Saudi tourist attractions. This will include the launch of a major global advertising campaign and the presence of leading international travel and tourism experts.
It is thought that the launch of the new Saudi Arabia Tourist Visa will be announced along with a range of other plans related to tourism including a nationwide digital events calendar. Work is already underway throughout the country to improve facilities for visitors.
A luxury resort on the Red Sea coast is almost complete and an entertainment city at Qiddiya outside Riyadh is also under construction. There is also a particular focus on advertising Al Ula, an area northwest of the country which is home to numerous ruins of the ancient kingdom.
The Saudi visas have been planned for a long time. The reason their development has taken so long is because of tensions between the faction who want to open the country up, and those who want to maintain their conservative traditions.