Super conservative Saudi Arabia welcomes tourists
SAUDI ARABIA is known for its expansive deserts, oil fields and for not wishing to compete for tourism with neighboring Dubai and Abu Dhabi.
But this is set to change as it gears up to offer foreigners tourist visas from April 1, 2018.
The electronic passes will be issued to all nationals from countries that are allowed to travel to Saudi Arabia.
Currently, this is applicable to all nations except Israel and Qatar. On the flip side, those from Oman, Bahrain, and Kuwait are entitled to visa-free entry.
The new visas are being issued in an attempt to modernize the desert country’s global image and boost the economy.
Currently, the conservative nation only issues tourist visas to those who are visiting friends and family, and that’s just the start of the restrictions.
To obtain a visa you need to prove that you’ve booked your trip through an authorized tour operator and you’re only allowed to stay in a select few hotels.
The Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is behind the new tourism initiative which hopes to generate around 30 million international visitors by 2030.
If this figure is reached, it can be expected that as much as US$54 billion will be contributed to the country’s economy by 2020.
The lax on visa restrictions is part of Prince Salman’s wider Saudi Vision 2030 plan which is intended to make the oil-rich nation less oil-dependent.
“We recognize that Allah the Almighty has bestowed on our lands a gift more precious than oil,” his ambitious mission states.
“Our Kingdom is the Land of the Two Holy Mosques, the most sacred sites on earth, and the direction of the Kaaba (Qibla) to which more than a billion Muslims turn at prayer.”
The finalization of the new visa process is yet to be confirmed, but it is looking hopeful for those who want to explore the rich desert lands.
Source: Travels travelwireasia.com