Sunday, Aug 16, 2020 | Last Update : 01:50 AM IST

144th Day Of Lockdown

Maharashtra57273440144219427 Tamil Nadu3321052722515641 Andhra Pradesh2818171911172562 Karnataka2111081281823718 Delhi1519281351084178 Uttar Pradesh140775887862280 West Bengal98459671202059 Telangana9025966196684 Bihar8274154139450 Gujarat71064542382652 Assam5883842326145 Rajasthan5249738235789 Odisha4592731785321 Haryana4163534781483 Madhya Pradesh3902529020996 Kerala3811424922127 Jammu and Kashmir2489717003472 Punjab2390315319586 Jharkhand185168998177 Chhatisgarh12148880996 Uttarakhand96326134125 Goa871259575 Tripura6161417641 Puducherry5382320187 Manipur3752204411 Himachal Pradesh3371218114 Nagaland30119738 Arunachal Pradesh223115923 Chandigarh1595100425 Meghalaya11154986 Sikkim9105101 Mizoram6203230
  World   Middle East  27 Sep 2019  In a first, Saudi to offer tourist visas as part of push to diversify economy away from oil

In a first, Saudi to offer tourist visas as part of push to diversify economy away from oil

AFP
Published : Sep 27, 2019, 9:22 am IST
Updated : Sep 27, 2019, 9:22 am IST

Saudi Arabia will open applications for online tourist visas to citizens of 49 countries on Saturday, a report said.

Kickstarting tourism is one of the centrepieces of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's Vision 2030 reform programme to prepare the biggest Arab economy for a post-oil era.  (Photo: File)
 Kickstarting tourism is one of the centrepieces of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's Vision 2030 reform programme to prepare the biggest Arab economy for a post-oil era. (Photo: File)

Riyadh: Saudi Arabia said Friday it will offer tourist visas for the first time, opening up the ultra-conservative kingdom to holidaymakers as part of a push to diversify its economy away from oil.

Kickstarting tourism is one of the centrepieces of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's Vision 2030 reform programme to prepare the biggest Arab economy for a post-oil era. The announcement comes just two weeks after devastating attacks on Saudi Arabia's oil infrastructure -- blamed by Washington on Iran -- which roiled global energy markets. "Opening Saudi Arabia to international tourists is a historic moment for our country," tourism chief Ahmed al-Khateeb said in a statement.

 

"Visitors will be surprised... by the treasures we have to share -- five UNESCO World Heritage Sites, a vibrant local culture and breathtaking natural beauty." Saudi Arabia will open applications for online tourist visas to citizens of 49 countries on Saturday, Bloomberg News quoted Khateeb as saying. Khateeb said the kingdom will also ease its strict dress code for foreign women, allowing them to go without the body-shrouding abaya robe that is still mandatory public wear for Saudi women.

The austere kingdom, which forbids alcohol and has a strict social code, is seen by many as a hard sell for tourists. Prince Mohammed is seeking to change that through a sweeping liberalisation drive that has brought new cinemas, mixed-gender concerts and sporting extravaganzas to Saudi Arabia.

 

International criticism of the kingdom's human rights record, including the gruesome murder last year of critic Jamal Khashoggi and a crackdown on female activists, could further put off foreign visitors, observers say.

Fears of a regional conflict after the September 14 attacks on state oil giant Aramco may also dampen the kingdom's appeal to holidaymakers.

Visas are currently restricted to expat workers, their dependents and Muslim pilgrims travelling to holy sites in Mecca and Medina.

Saudi Arabia last year began issuing visas to visitors to attend sporting and cultural events in a bid to kickstart tourism. The government, reeling from low oil prices, says it hopes tourism will contribute up to 10 per cent of the gross domestic product by 2030, compared to three percent currently.

 

It says by 2030 it aims to attract up to 100 million annual visits by both domestic and foreign tourists. The sector is expected to create up to one million tourism jobs, the government says, as the kingdom battles high youth unemployment.

Saudi Arabia has splurged billions in an attempt to build a tourism industry from scratch. In 2017, the kingdom announced a multi-billion dollar project to turn 50 islands and other pristine sites on the Red Sea into luxury resorts. The country is also developing historic sites such as the centuries-old Mada'in Saleh, home to sandstone tombs of the same civilisation which built the Jordanian city of Petra.

 

Tags: saudi arabia, tourist visa, red sea, mohammed bin salman
Location: Saudi Arabia, Riyadh