Saudi Arabia Plans to Start Issuing Tourist Visas Soon
Most visitors currently face a tedious visa process and exorbitant fees to enter the kingdom.
Aside from millions of Muslims who travel to Saudi Arabia for the annual hajj pilgrimage, most visitors currently face a tedious visa process and exorbitant fees to enter the kingdom. (Photo courtesy: AFP Relaxnews/ belterz/ Istock.com)
Saudi Arabia plans to start issuing tourist visas "soon", authorities said Tuesday, as the ultra-conservative kingdom seeks to attract international visitors in a radical overhaul of its oil-dependent economy.
Tourism is seen as a major driver of growth as the kingdom attempts to wean itself off its dependence on petrodollars amid a protracted oil slump.
"Tourist visas will be introduced soon," Prince Sultan bin Salman bin Abdul Aziz, head of the Saudi tourism authority, was quoted as saying in a statement. He did not specify a time frame.
Aside from millions of Muslims who travel to Saudi Arabia for the annual hajj pilgrimage, most visitors currently face a tedious visa process and exorbitant fees to enter the kingdom.
Prince Sultan's comment comes ahead of Saudi Arabia's first archaeology convention in Riyadh next week as the government seeks to showcase some of its historic sites.
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in August announced a massive tourism project to turn 50 islands and a string of sites on the Red Sea into luxury resorts.
Although richly endowed with natural beauty, the kingdom is hardly seen as a tourism hotspot.
Alcohol, cinemas and theatres are still banned in the kingdom, an absolute monarchy and one of the world's most conservative countries.
But authorities in recent months have sought to project a moderate image with a string of reforms, including the decision allowing women to drive from next June.
The kingdom is also expected to lift a public ban on cinemas and has encouraged mixed-gender celebrations -- something seldom seen before.
The moves appear designed to project the kingdom in a favourable light as it seeks to attract badly needed foreign investment.
Get the best of News18 delivered to your inbox - subscribe to News18 Daybreak. Follow News18.com on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Telegram, TikTok and on YouTube, and stay in the know with what's happening in the world around you – in real time.
Recommended For You
- A Scene from Joaquin Phoenix's 'Joker' Has Become the Internet's Most Referenced Meme
- 'Maya' Jennifer Winget Turns World Upside Down in New Beyhadh 2 Promo
- Shah Rukh Khan to Announce Two Films on His 54th Birthday?
- Disha Vakani's Husband Mayur Pandya on Actress' Return to Taarak Mehta Ka Ooltah Chashmah
- WhatsApp Has Some New Features For iPhone Users And You Can Use Them Now