Saudi Arabia to start issuing tourist visas in September: Report

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Tourist visas in Saudi Arabia will likely be issued starting September 27, Okaz newspaper reported on Tuesday, citing unnamed sources familiar with the matter.

Visas will be available for citizens of 51 countries for $118 (440 Saudi riyals), a fee inclusive of mandatory health insurance for visitors. Tourists can apply for the 90-day visas online or upon arrival, the newspaper reported.

The initiative is seen as an important step towards reforming the economy, in keeping with Vision 2030, spearheaded by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. It is aimed at increasing total tourism spending in the Kingdom — by local citizens as well as foreigners — to $46.6 billion in 2020 from $27.9 billion in 2015, the government had said.

In early March, the Saudi cabinet approved electronic tourist visas for overseas visitors seeking to attend sporting events and concerts in the Kingdom. Under the move, officials stated that the visa application can be completed online and only takes a few minutes, without the need to go to an embassy or consulate.

Saudi Arabia has been working towards revamping its tourism and entertainment sectors by promoting its coastline and UNESCO-recognized heritage sites.

The Red Sea Project is also a much-anticipated tourist destination being developed in the Kingdom, where the ultra-luxurious and sustainable development is set to host resorts on 50 islands off the coast of the Red Sea. It will also be accessible by 80 percent of the world’s population in less than eight hours.

A mega-theme park is also being developed, known as Qiddiyah, an hour’s drive from Riyadh. It expects to attract 1.5 million visitors each year when the first phase opens in 2022.

In April, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman also launched mega tourism projects in the ancient desert city of Al-Ula, which are set to rake in a $32 billion increase in GDP, over two million visitors, and 38,000 jobs by 2035, according to the Royal Commission for Al-Ula.

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