Latest Travel News: Saudi Arabia's New Tourist Visa Program Open Doors to Leisure Travel & DIY Umrah

Latest Travel News: Saudi Arabia

More than just a country for pilgrims, Saudi Arabia has finally opened its doors to tourists.

With hopes to diversify the economy away from oil, Saudi Arabia has finally opened its doors to tourists from 49 states to visit one of the world’s most unexplored destinations. During an event in Ad-Diriyah, Chairman of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Heritage, Ahmad Al-Khateeb, announced the launch of a new tourist visa program to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Tourists from these 49 states can now obtain their own visa online, on arrival, from embassies and consulates. Travelers can now obtain one-year or multiple-entry visas that allow them to enter the country for up to 90 days. Each visa costs 440 Riyal.

Following the launch, Saudi Arabia has also announced that the country will issue fines for 19 offenses related to public decency within the kingdom. These violations include “littering, spitting, queue jumping, taking photographs and videos of people without permission and playing music at prayer times.” Female tourists will also have to be modestly dressed according to the law. Women can now wear colorful abayas that are loose-fitting.

 “We are opening Saudi Arabia to our guests, we want them to come and we don’t want anyone to pre-judge. We want them to come and experience Saudi Arabia and how welcoming is Saudi Arabia. We are very sure they will find a great experience an authentic experience,” said Saudi Tourism Chairperson Ahmad Al-Khateeb in an interview with CNBC International TV.

With the launch of visas, Saudi Arabia is starting plans on expanding the tourism industry in the kingdom. This includes the partnership with Qiddiya and the Six Flags Entertainment Corporation, one of the biggest regional theme park company in the world, to venture on the first and largest theme park in Saudi Arabia, located just outside Riyadh. The theme park was said to be completed by the beginning of 2023. With partnership plans with industry leaders from the hospitality and entertainment sectors, Al Qiddiya is envisioned to be “the biggest entertainment city around the world.”

Saudi Tourism Chairperson Ahmad Al-Khateeb also said that the kingdom aims to increase the percentage of gross domestic product from 3 percent to 10 percent by 2030. 

Mastercard-Crescent Rating Halal Travel Frontier 2019 Report leased in January already predicted that the “The Umrah and Hajj segment has been ripe for disruption for some time. 2019 will see an accelerated momentum in this direction. The disruption will happen in a number of fronts enabled by technology; disruption of the traditional Umrah operator’s role, training of pilgrims to perform the rites and helping in the performance of the rites itself.”

Though the list of eligible countries has not been finalized, the Saudi Government has already announced that the eVisa will be available to citizens of the:

Australia, Austria, Andorra, Belgium, Bulgaria, Brunei, Canada, China (including Hong Jong and Macau), Cyprus, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Ireland, Japan, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Malta, Monaco,, Montenegro, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, San Marino, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Ukraine, United Kingdom.

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