Saudi visa push to attract non-Muslim tourists

RIYADH, 9 Jan 2019: 

The Saudi Arabian government plans to issue visa for foreign tourists this year – including non-Muslims – to promote the country as a holiday destination, as part of its Vision 2030.

Minister of media Dr Awwad Saleh Al-Awwad said by considering the plan to issue the visa, he hoped it would help the country shed its unfriendly image due to its social cultural climate.

“Currently, we are giving visas for event purposes and to make it (tourist visa) come true, we need to consider few aspects. Saudi Arabia is also a place where millions come to work and we need to find the right mechanisms for it.

“We will try to discuss it further with the government and God-willing, perhaps, we can issue the tourist visa this year,” he said during a meeting with a foreign media group at the ministry’s office here recently.

In December last year, the Saudi Arabian government – for the first time – issued visa for tourists solely for the 2018 Saudia Ad Diriyah E-Prix debut in the Saudi capital, which saw about 1,000 tourists comprising 80 nationalities throng the race event.

Vision 2030 is the country’s blueprint for major developments in various sectors of the economy, by the year 2030.

In the blueprint, the government plans to create attractions with highest international standards, improve visa issuance procedures for visitors, and prepare and develop the country’s historical and heritage sites.

Currently, the government only issues Umrah and Haj visas for pilgrims.

According to figures released by the government in 2015, the number of foreign Umrah visitors has reached eight million, which tripled after the expansion of the Two Holy Mosques.

– Bernama