Saudi Arabia has announced that it will be offering Tourist Visas for the very first time. The kingdom will open up to holidaymakers in a bid to lessen the economy’s reliance on oil.
Encouraging tourism is a key aspect of the Vision 2030 initiative of the Crown Prince Mohd. Bin Salman. The initiative plans to prepare Saudi Arabia’s economy moving away from oil.
The announcement has come just a couple of weeks after shocking attacks on the oil infrastructure of Saudi Arabia. Washington has blamed Iran and has muddied international energy markets and have raised apprehensions of a wider conflict in the region.
Ahmed Al-Khateeb, Tourism Chief, has said that opening Saudi Arabia’s doors to international tourists has been an epic moment for the country. He says that visitors will be surprised with what Saudi Arabia has to offer. The country is home to 5 UNESCO World Heritage Sites and stunning natural beauty.
Tourists from 49 countries will be able to apply for Tourist Visa online.
Ahmed Al-Khateeb also said that the kingdom will also ease the dress restrictions on female tourists. Female tourists will be able to go out without the body-covering “Abaya robe”. Saudi women must wear the abaya while going out. Foreign women, however, will have to be modest in their clothing, as per NDTV.
Saudi Arabia had earlier restricted visas only for foreign workers and their dependents. Muslim pilgrims travelling to the holy cities of Mecca and Madina were also allowed to obtain visas.
Saudi Arabia had started issuing special visas last year for special cultural and sporting events to try and encourage tourism.
However, the kingdom follows a very strict social code and forbids alcohol. Many believe that these rules discourage tourists from visiting the country.
Prince Mohd is trying to change all of that with a wave of liberalization. He has brought in new cinemas, events that are open to both genders and sporting events to the country.
The Saudi Government hopes that 10% of the GDP will be contributed by tourism by 2030. It aims to attract more than 100 million domestic and foreign tourists by 2030.
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