Saudi Arabia on Friday formally announced that tourist visas will be issued for the first time to visitors from 49 countries around the world.
Kickstarting tourism is one of the centerpieces of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s Vision 2030 reform program to prepare the biggest Arab economy for a post-oil era.
At the launch event that coincided with World Tourism Day, the president of SCTH Ahmed Al-Khateeb said that international investors had agreed to invest SAR115 billion ($30 billion) into the tourism sector on Friday.
Al-Khateeb said the Kingdom will also ease its strict dress code for foreign women, allowing them to go without the abaya robe that is still mandatory public wear for Saudi women.
Tourists from 38 countries in Europe, 7 in Asia, as well as the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, will be eligible to apply for the new visas.
The visas will be valid for 360 days from the date of issue for stays of 90 days or less, and for a total of no more than 180 days in a single year.
For residents of those 49 countries, visas will be obtainable online via a seven-minute application process, or on arrival at machine kiosks or special counters in any of Saudi Arabia’s four international airports.
According to SCTH, the website has garnered over 94 million views since going live. SCTH announced on Thursday night that they have established an SR15 billion fund to support tourism projects across the Kingdom, according to reports.
They also said that they had conducted field research by inviting 100 “invisible tourists” to Saudi Arabia to gauge public reaction to their presence, but also to garner their feedback on how they found Saudi Arabia and what could be improved.
Marketing Saudi Arabia as a tourist location is one of the main goals of Vision 2030, the Kingdom’s ambitious plan to move the country away from its heavy reliance on oil as its main source of income.