Saudi Arabia eyes improved tourism with new visa system

Saudi women walking inside a shopping centre in Riyad

Saudi women walking inside a shopping centre in Riyadh. Photo: Tribes of the World / flickr.

Saudi Arabia today launched its new tourist visa, inviting a wider range of foreigners to visit the country in an effort to diversify the country’s economy.

In what Tourism Minister Ahmed Al-Khateeb called an “historic moment”, the kingdom’s new visa system offers access to tourists from 49 countries and calls on foreign companies to invest in the sector which it hopes will contribute ten per cent of its GDP by 2030.

The move marks a sharp contrast to the country’s previous visa system, which only issued travel permits for a limited number of purposes including pilgrimage, business and for expatriate workers and their families. It is among a myriad of other changes to the laws and social customs in the kingdom, such as ruling that female visitors do not have to wear the abaya – black traditional cloak – while in the country but must remain modest in their dress.

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Middle East Monitor

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