Published on : Tuesday, September 29, 2020
By early 2021, Saudi Arabia is all set to start tourist visas again after experiencing months of suspension in the middle of stern measures of the government to stop virus spread, as informed to Reuters by the tourism minister of the kingdom.
Tourism is the main pillar of Mohammed bin Salman, the Saudi Crown Prince and his ambitious reform strategy to decrease Kingdom’s over-dependence on oil.
In September 2019, the kingdom had opened its doors to international tourists by introducing a new visa regime for 49 countries, is keen on making the sector contributing 10% of GDP by 2030.
To quote Ahmed al-Khateeb, “For tourist visa, until now we are talking about early next year. If things get better or if any positive developments happen with regards to the vaccine, we might accelerate and have it earlier.” In late-February 2020, the frontiers of the kingdom were shut down to foreign pilgrims and to tourists from almost 25 countries. The Kingdom in March had stopped all travel in and out.
Khateeb explained that the tourism industry has been majorly impacted and is anticipated to witness a 35%-45% drop by end of 2020. The aim on domestic tourism has provided a soft padding to the blow, whatsoever.
“This pandemic is a systematic risk that has hit everyone; however, we have seen a very strong summer after the January-May lockup period,” Khateeb said.
“We have noticed a growth of 30% year on year in domestic tourism which is beyond our expectations.”
The Saudi Summer campaign, which showcased 10 locations starting right from beaches and forests to the lofty ranges and historic places, for citizens and residents to visit in place of vacationing abroad, helped in boosting up hotel’s average occupancy ratio to 80 percent.
Till now, Saudi Arabia has reported 332,790 COVID-19 cases and 4655 deaths. Infection rates have experienced a steady drop in the last few weeks.
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