Saudi visa fees increase comes into effect

New rules will affect religious tourists and business travellers, but will exclude pilgrims



Saudi Arabia has unveiled a raft of fee rises for travel visas as part of its efforts to diversify its non-oil economy.

Visitors to the kingdom on religious holidays and business travel will have to pay SAR2,000 ($533) for a single-entry visa.

A multiple-entry visa now costs SAR3,000 ($799) Saudi riyals for six months, SAR5,000 ($1,333) for a year and SAR8,000 ($2,132) for two years.

This compares with the SAR515 multiple-entry visa previously charged to travellers from the UAE.

GCC nationals and pilgrims for Haj or Umrah travelling to the country for the first time will not be affected by the changes.

Saudi Arabia received 1.32 million overseas Haj pilgrims, out of 1.86 million Haj pilgrims this year, according to the General Authority for Statistics in Saudi Arabia last month. Last year, Saudi Arabia received 18 million international visitors, down from 18.25 million in 2014, according to the United Nations’ World Tourism Organisation.

The new visa regulations come as Saudi Arabia’s revenues have been hit by the low oil price.

Bu, the kingdom hopes to boost its tourism numbers up to 140 million by 2020, according to Saudi Arabia’s Commission for Tourism and National Heritage, who called the predictions a ‘golden opportunity’ for the private sector.

The organisation called for 48,000 new hotel rooms to be built in the country to accommodate the numbers, as reported by the Saudi Gazette in July.

The kingdom’s Vision 2030 reform plan has listed the developed of 1,300 islands – 1,150 in the Red Sea and 150 in the Arabian Gulf – as a development goal for the tourism sector. Around 8,000 new tourist guides are also said to be needed by 2030.

Saudi tourist agents have said they do not believe the new visa fees will affect the number of tourists, especially religious tourists, according to The National.

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