As of the first of April this year, the process of applying for a visa to travel to Saudi Arabia has changed significantly, with the Kingdom announcing their introduction of an electronic visa program. Up until this point, getting a visa to travel to Saudi Arabia has been notoriously difficult and in fact, it was virtually impossible for the majority of people to be permitted entry bar those traveling to the country on business or in pursuit of a religious pilgrimage. Saudi visas were difficult, time-consuming and expensive to obtain – placing them out of reach for the majority of travellers. Not only does the new visa open up the mysterious kingdom to tourism, it does so in a straightforward manner with an e-visa application.
Under the leadership and guidance of Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, tourism will be a major economic focus for Saudi Arabia over the course of the next few years and opening the country up to foreign visitors is predicted to inject millions of dollars of additional revenue into the country and almost double the amount of tourists that the Kingdom receives in just 12 years. According to 2016 statistics, Saudi Arabia received 18 million visitors annually. In 2030, this is targeted to be 30 million annual visitors.
With those things considered, the Kingdom will also be making significant investments on tourism factors by 2020 in order to make Saudi Arabia appear more attractive to outsiders. The project, Saudi Vision 2030, will see significant developments take place around the Middle Eastern nation. For one, numerous luxurious resorts will be built along the Red Sea offering wanderlusting adventurers the perfect opportunity for rest and relaxation and a taster of the best of Middle Eastern hospitality. The bright lights of Last Vegas will also soon have a new competitor in the form of a large scale entertainment complex that will be developed close to the Saudi capital of Riyadh.
For Culture Vultures, Saudi Arabia has plenty to offer. The ancient city of Mada’in Saleh is a Nabataean settlement similar to Jordan’s Petra and its mysterious beauty will finally be witnessed by inquisitive Globetrotters. Saudi Arabia is a conservative nation that had previously always shunned the prospect of tourism. The focus on bringing international visitors to the country had always been on those partaking in Islamic pilgrimages or businessmen and investors (predominantly those related to the country’s oil trading).
The new developments in the tourism industry will position Saudi Arabia as a hot new destination in the Middle East. The visa process itself is set to be incredibly simple to follow. The e-visa can be applied for online and is set to be approved within a short period of time.
These developments made by Saudi Arabia follow suit of nearby Middle Eastern countries like Oman, who have also recently introduced a similar e-visa program. The initiative aims to steer the country’s income dependency away from oil, and towards new economy income streams – of which tourism is set to be the lead.