On September 27, Saudi Arabia announced it was opening its doors to the rest of the world and ushering in a new era of tourism and tolerance. As part of this mission, the Kingdom promised to make it even easier for visitors to get into the country.
The announcement shows that nationals of about 50 different countries would now be allowed to get the country’s new Tourist visa via the eVisa platform or on arrival in the kingdom. The countries whose citizens enjoy this privilege are mostly first world countries in Europe, America and Asia, including China, Italy, United Kingdom, United States, Malaysia and Japan. The authorities, however, announced that the list of countries had not been finalized.
Recent reports have now shown that the list of nationals of other countries who can also apply for the Saudi tourism visa has been expanded to include anyone that has an existing commercial or tourist visa from the US, UK or the EU’s Schengen Area.
The Saudi Arabia eVisa is valid for an impressive 90 days, allowing tourists to visit multiple times per year within a one-year period. The eVisa costs about US $120 (AED 441), along with a health insurance fee.
Until now, Saudi Arabia did not have a visa specifically for tourism. Entry was restricted to Muslim pilgrims wishing to visit the holy cities of Mecca and Medina, business travellers, and resident workers and their dependents. The visa was launched in an effort to diversify the economy, boost the tourism sector and create new jobs for Saudi Arabian citizens as part of the new reforms taken by the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
And it seems to have worked since 24,000 people flew to Saudi Arabia within the first 10 days of the e-Visa launch, the Saudi Arabian Foreign Ministry announced. Visitors were mostly from China, with the UK, US France, Germany, Canada, Malaysia, Russia, Australia and Kazakhstan following close behind.
“Opening Saudi Arabia to international tourists is a historic moment for our country,” said Ahmad Al-Khateeb, chairman of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage, in a statement. “Generous hospitality is at the heart of Arabian culture and we look forward to showing our guests a very warm welcome. To visitors, we say: be among the first to discover and explore the treasures of Arabia. To investors we say: become part of the fastest-growing tourism sector on earth.”
References: Saudi Gazette, Esquire Middle East, Schengen visa info and Saudi Arabia Visa.