Published on : Wednesday, December 20, 2017
Saudi Arabia will start granting tourist visas from the first quarter of 2018, as informed by the senior tourism official, a first for the kingdom as it takes on the most important economic and social reforms.
As per Prince Sultan bin Salman bin Abdulaziz “all government approvals” are in position for the introduction of electronic visas in 2018 to “all nationals whose countries allow their citizens to visit” Saudi Arabia.
“We are now just preparing the regulations – who is eligible for the visas and how to obtain them,” explained Prince Sultan, head of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage.
The proprietor of a Jeddah-based tour operator expressed that from 2018, guided tours will commence in February 2018.
The initiation to open up and expand its tourism sector is a significant alteration for Saudi Arabia as Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman is interested to repair the oil-dependent financial system of the kingdom and discard its ultra-conservative image.
In addition to the millions of Muslims traveling Saudi Arabia every year for the purpose of Hajj pilgrimage, majority of visitors go through a difficult process and high fees in order to enter the kingdom.
At present, Saudi Arabia offers tourist visas for few countries. Interestingly, those applications also have to go through restrictions even like requirements to traveling via an accredited company and spend night at designated hotels.
Prince Sultan explained that the expense of the new tourist visa had not yet been determined, but stressed that it would be “as low as possible, because we believe the cumulative economic impact is greater than the cash from the visa”.
Lately, the kingdom has busted few rigid rules like lifting up of cinema ban, permitting genders to interact at a national celebration and declaring that women will be allowed to drive from next June.