Saudi opens borders with new tourist visa starting 27 September with 1-year validity
Priya Wadhwa

Saudi opens borders with new tourist visa starting 27 September with 1-year validity

Developing the tourism sector is a key objective of the Saudi Vision 2030.

Saudi Arabia is expected to soon open up its borders with a new tourist visa, which will reportedly be announced on the 27 of September.

The new tourist visa will be open to citizens of 51 countries, allowing them to apply online to process and receive it within 30 minutes, or upon arrival, with a fee of SAR 440 (USD 118). The stay will be restricted to 90 days per visit and 180 days in a year, while the validity of the visa will be up to one year.

Much of the Kingdom has remained closed until recently, only allowing selective movement of foreign nationals for business, work or pilgrimage purposes. However, under the guidance of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the sovereign nation is loosening its stringent social restrictions, and opening up to tourists in line with its objective of diversifying economic dependence away from oil as part of Vision 2030.

Currently, 80 percent of Saudi’s government revenues come from the oil and natural gas sector. Moving forward, as the world is focusing upon reducing use of oil and switching to more renewable and low carbon footprint resources, this could pose a threat to the Saudi economy. A key aspect of addressing this in Vision 2030 is tourism, following the strategy of neighbouring countries such as the UAE, to strengthen the economy.

The news of the to-be-announced tourist visa also comes soon after the announcement of mega tourism destination projects in the Kingdom, including The Red Sea Project set on a group of more than 50 islands in the sea (announced on 1 August), Amaala, another leisure destination on the northwestern coast of the Red Sea, as well as Qiddiyah which is an entertainment megaproject within the city of Riyadh.

The new tourism sector in Saudi Arabia is expected to create 70,000 jobs, some of which will be restricted by the government for its citizens. The Crown Prince expects to attract 30 million visitors to the Kingdom by 2030, over double the current number which mostly make up those travelling for the annual holy pilgrimage.

Moreover Saudi nationals who go on holidays abroad, spend around $25 billion every year. The Crown Prince wants them to spend that money within the country.

Bloomberg reported that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is using instagram influencers to spread the word of its tourism industry; offering all expenses paid trips to some of the world’s top travel influencers to showcase the beauty and hospitality of the Kingdom.

Saudi Arabia, due to being largely closed to foreigners, has vast expanses of undisturbed golden deserts, ruins, and almost untouched beaches with low pollution levels. Does that excite the traveller in you to go explore?