The Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage (SCTNH) has completed a set of regulations to be applied on the tourist visas to visit the kingdom. According to the Center for International Communication (CIC) the rules for the tourist visa have been submitted to the government to be revised and approved, the CIC predicts than an official statement will be released soon.
The new tourist visa is expected to boost tourism and travel in the kingdom. To date, the travel industry in Saudi Arabia largely relies on domestic travel and business and religious visitors. The SCTNH has said that the regulation has been put together in consultation with the government, investors, and tourism transport workers. A new integrated system is also being developed in order to process the visas and have a record of who is applying to visit the country,
The SCTNH said, "The national Transformation Programme 2020, has adopted the 'tourist visa' as one of the important initiatives with high economic feasibility, which will exert a direct influence on upgrading the quality of services, resolving the issue of seasonality, and controlling the prices of tourism-related services." The Government of Saudi Arabia sees travel and tourism as a key driver to diversify their economy and reach their 2030 Vision Plan.
Nearly 900,000 Saudis work in the tourism and travel sector. In 2017, the kingdom welcomed an estimated 18 million visitors. Most of these visitors were Hajj and Umrah Pilgrims. Last year, the kingdom revealed a plan to build a 300,000 square kilometers stretch of islands, beaches and several other attractions on the Red Sea. The Kingdom will be partnering with hotel operators. Most nationalities would be able to access this area without a visa. When finished, this project is expected to provide over 35,000 jobs and welcome one million visitors each year
Tourist Visa for Saudi Arabia
The tourism sector in Saudi Arabia has been largely focused on religious pilgrimages, however, the Saudi government hopes to change that with the introduction of the tourist visa. The pilgrimage to the Mecca will still be important, over the course of the year it receives over 9 million pilgrims. The Mecca is the holiest of Muslims cities and it is located on the plain of Tihamah in Saudi Arabia. It is also the birthplace of Muhammad and the site of Muhammad's first revelation of the Quran. Most devout Muslims attempt a hajj, (pilgrimage) to Mecca at least once in their lifetime, it is a sacred place where only Muslims are allowed to enter.
However, Saudi Arabia has plenty of attractions and things to do. Though the requirements for the tourist visa are yet to be approved and shared, those who travel Saudi Arabia will be able to visit:
- Tabuk Castle: dating back to 1559, Tabuk Castle was refurbished in 1950 and fully restored in 1992. The castle is now a museum that features a mosque, an open courtyard, and a stairway that ascends to the castle's second mosque and watchtowers.
- Souq Al Alawi: the most extensive market in the Kingdom is packed with activity and a wide range of products. Visitors can find Arabian jewelry, traditional dresses, and Islamic art.
- Fakieh Aquarium: located in Jeddah, this aquarium has a large variety of species including sharks, turtles and other marine life. The aquarium features a ladies' only night on Wednesdays. The complex also has an ice-skating rink and an arcade.
- Hejaz Railway Station: set in the heart of Tabuk, it features 13 Hejazi-inspired buildings. The station has a workshop, a handicrafts center, and a locomotive. Adjecent to the station there is a state-of-the-art modern museum.