Saudi Arabia will soon start issuing tourist visas in an attempt to cut their oil dependency
2 November 2017| Last updated on 2 November 2017
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has made another announcement that we didn’t think we’d hear anytime soon: tourist visas will soon be available for foreigners to visit the country.
This announcement is part of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 initiative that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has put in place to increase the tourism industry in the country and wean Saudi off of their dependency on oil.
In the first stage of rollout, the visas will only be available through authorized tour operators to groups of visitors.
Many people are curious to visit the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia but the country has always been known as being inaccessible and that you can only enter if you are a Muslim going on a pilgrimage or are offered a job in the Kingdom. Perhaps the difficulty of being able to get into the country has added to the mystery and sparked peoples curiosity even more.
Tour companies are reporting that they already have a waiting list of people wanting to visit the luxury resort being developed by the Red Sea coast. Previously, tour groups have managed to enter the Kingdom before, but not without great difficulty and high costs. A British tour company arranged a tour to Saudi Arabia. With the help of some of the local families they were able to get visitors visas for the tourists.
No time frame has been indicated yet with Prince Sultan only saying that “Tourist visas will be introduced soon.”
We are excited to finally be able to explore the country for ourselves and see what natural and historical treasures the country has to offer. Unfortunately, there will still be a number of restrictions on the tourist visas. According to Gulf Business, female travellers under 30 must be accompanied by their brother or husband and unmarried couples won’t be able to travel alone together to the Kingdom.
If we are completely honest, this announcement didn't entirely come as a surprise. Last month Saudi announced that they will be hosting two major sporting events in the Kingdom: The Race of Champions motorsport event and the World Boxing Supreme Series Cruiserweight final. Both events draw big crowds, some of which can even be international and we would have been very surprised if the organisers of the event agreed to host the events in the Kingdom if foreigners won't be able to attend.
Earlier this year Saudi also pleasantly surprised the world by announcing that Saudi women will be able to drive as of June 2018. With the way things are currently going, great things are coming to Saudi Arabia and they might achieve their goal of becoming a big tourist destination.