Saudi Arabia eases travel for GCC, US, European visitors with new visa scheme
Saudi Arabia has introduced a new visa scheme allowing for increased numbers of visitors from the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states, the United States, United Kingdom and European Union.
Tourism Minister Ahmed Al Khateeb announced that a decree had been signed allowing for new visas, single and multiple-entry visas for tourism and Umrah pilgrimages starting at SAR 300 ($80).
Residents of GCC states Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, and the UAE are now able to obtain online visas from visitsaudi.com, the Tourism Ministry said.
Saudi e-visas are available for citizens of 49 countries, according to the ministry.
“The facilitation of a tourist visa for millions of GCC residents and the visa on arrival extension supports our ambition to welcome 100 million visitors a year by 2030, to the world’s biggest new leisure tourism destination," Fahd Hamidaddin, CEO and Member of the Board at Saudi Tourism Authority, was quoted by Business Traveller as saying.
"This is not just an announcement, it is an invitation and we are making it easier than ever for visitors to explore thousands of years of history and culture, unmatched natural landscapes, and a thriving entertainment sector,” he added.
UK, US, and EU residents can apply for visas on arrival.
Saudi Arabia has raised eyebrows with its goal of attracting 100 million visitors by 2030, an element of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's Vision 2030 reform agenda intended to diversify the oil-dependent economy and open up to the world.
While the kingdom has in recent years relaxed rules barring cinemas, gender-mixed concerts and sporting extravaganzas, other regulations including an alcohol ban remain in place, potentially denting its appeal.
Ahead of neighbouring Qatar's hosting of the FIFA World Cup, Riyadh has also announced the offering of multi-entry visas for those possessing the tournament's official Hayya card issued to visiting fans with tickets.
Hayya card holders can apply for the visas online and stay in Saudi Arabia for up to 60 days, beginning from 10 days before the competition.