Travelers from the United States, Europe, China, and Japan, great news! There are reports coming out of Saudi Arabia stating that the Kingdom is planning to offer visa-free access to its non-religious tourism sites to visitors from these regions. According to Wallstreet Journal, details of this new visa category will be finalized in the coming months and announced by the end of the year.
This move is one of many Saudi Arabia has been making to open its doors to the world. Last week, the Kingdom’s cabinet approved electronic visas for foreign visitors to attend sporting events and concerts, as reported by Gulf Business, and Arab News stated that “[e]mbassies and consulates will be able to issue the visas within 24 hours of receiving a request.”
In addition, 14-day e-visas were issued last year by Saudi Arabia through its new Sharek e-visa platform, allowing motor racing fans from across the globe to travel to the Kingdom to watch its inaugural Saudia Ad Diriyah E-Prix, three days of Formula E fun, live music from international artists, entertainment, and cultural activities.
Although a country rich with exceptional natural, cultural, and heritage sites, Saudi Arabia is only now developing its tourism sector beyond its current structure, which has been designed to cater all-year-round to religious pilgrims. The current visa initiative is part of the Kingdom’s ongoing efforts to bring in more tourists and is seen as an important step towards realizing the objectives of its Vision 2030 national plan, which aim at diversifying its oil-dependent economy, modernizing its society, and providing diverse work opportunities for its youth.