RIYADH, October 31, 2017 – Saudi Arabia plans to start issuing tourist visas soon, according to the head of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage (SCTH). The move is expected to give a boost to the tourism industry in the Kingdom.
“Tourist visas will be introduced soon,” SCTH President Prince Sultan bin Salman bin Abdul Aziz told a press conference on Monday to announce the details of the first Saudi Archaeology Convention to be held in Riyadh next week.
A system has been put in place for the issuance of tourist visas and it will be launched soon, he said. SCTH has been working with the Ministry of Interior and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on the issue.
The tourism sector has been earmarked by the government as a key driver for growth in the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 plan to diversify the economy away from oil. Some 900,000 Saudis work in the travel and tourism sector. Saudi Arabia has welcomed an estimated 18 million visitors last year, most of whom came for the Hajj and Umrah pilgrimages.
The Kingdom has some important archaeological and historic sites, including Madain Saleh in the northwest, built by the ancient Nabateans; and Diriyah, a small historic city about 20 kilometres from the capital, Riyadh. Both are UNESCO World Heritage sites.
Saudi Arabia has also announced some major projects as part of Vision 2030, including the Red Sea Project, a coastal lagoon covering some 50 untouched islands stretching along more than 150km unpopulated coastline. The project will comprise exquisite luxury resorts, underwater nature reserves and dormant volcanos within an area of 34,000 square kilometres.