Saudi Arabia sees tourist visa applications soar

Tourism visa applications to Saudi Arabia have boomed since the secretive kingdom announced in late September that it was opening its doors to more foreign visitors.

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The country’s tourism boss Majed M Alghanim said it has received 77,000 applications for its £98 e-visa in the first month since it was introduced for tourists from 49 countries.

Saudi Arabia visa strategy

Despite still reeling from the fallout of the assassination of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in October 2018 and continued criticism over its human rights record, the country has been pressing on with its ambitious Vision 2030 tourism strategy that is targeting 100 million visitors a year by 2030.

That strategy saw the Kingdom’s tourism industry stake its presence at World Travel Market this week, where it was one of the biggest exhibitors in the Middle Eastern sector with an 800 square meter stand and eight participating tourism companies and bodies.

Included was the Red Sea Development Company that plans a resort area the size of Belgium using 200 km of coastline and 90 natural islands.

“Our ambition is to create a luxury tourism destination that is built around nature and culture. But in so doing, we want to set new standards in sustainable development, and put Saudi Arabia on the global tourism map,” said project CEO John Pagano.

In addition, the luxury Aman Group is set to open three hotels in Alula, which is close to the monumental tombs of Madein Saleh.

The recent e-visa introduction was accompanied by a relaxation of rules for tourists, including allowing non-married visiting couples to share hotel rooms, and rumours abound of a change in laws to allow foreign visitors to drink alcohol in resorts.

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