Saudi Arabia has big plans to boost its tourism sector. It will also soon issue its first ever tourism visa. Saudi Arabia, which until now, didn’t allow leisure travel will do so to reduce dependency on its oil industry. The Kingdom is going to have special service for a few nations – the e-visa.
Citizens of Japan, the US, Brunei, Singapore, Australia, South Korea, Malaysia, and South Africa don’t need to go to their nearest Saudi Arabia embassy or consulate to get the visa because they apply for it online. Saudi Arabia’s Interior Ministry and Foreign Ministry have set regulations for people coming to Saudi Arabia using the new travel visa. All other countries that haven’t been mentioned on the list have to apply for the travel visa at the Saudi Arabia embassies in their countries. Visa-on-arrival is yet not available for any country.
Also, women using the tourism visa need to 25 years of age if they want to travel alone into the country. These foreigners will not be allowed to visit Mecca and Medina, Islamic holy places. For that, they need to use the Umrah visa. However, they will be allowed to travel to other religious and non-religious places in the country and are expected to follow the rules of that particular place. For example, women need to wear hijab to enter religious places.
Plan announced back in 2006
The government of Saudi Arabia had announced a similar program back in 2006 but never considered it seriously. It was because of Sultan bin Salman, head, Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage that the plan was taken up again. In November 2017, the government announced that they will issue its first travel visa in the first quarter of 2018. It is excellent news that the country is progressing and ready for a change.