Saudi Arabia relaxes tourist visa rule for all GCC residents
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Saudi Arabia relaxes tourist visa rule for all GCC residents

Saudi Arabia relaxes tourist visa rule for all GCC residents

The announcement is the latest in a series of initiatives that seek to attract visitors coming from GCC countries

Saudi Arabia tourism visa

Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Tourism has relaxed tourist visa applications for all GCC residents, a move that will allow travellers to explore the diverse destinations in the kingdom and perform Umrah rituals throughout the year.

The decision is part of the ministry of tourism’s broader strategy to provide an opportunity for residents in the GCC states to visit tourist destinations and explore the heritage and historical sites across Saudi Arabia. It also allows travellers to participate in tourism and entertainment events.

Saudi Arabia said the announcement by the ministry is the latest in a series of initiatives by the government that aim to attract regional tourists and provide more activities for visitors coming from GCC countries.

The Saudi Tourism Authority also said that more information and visa applications can be made on Visit Saudi – a mobile app that provides a gateway for travellers to discover all events, international festivals and inspiring tourism experiences.

The mobile app also provides tourists with a gateway to enjoy the country’s climate, natural and cultural diversity and the hospitality of the Saudi people.

Last year, the authority launched the Nusuk platform, the first official integrated digital platform in Saudi Araba that helps pilgrims and tourists plan their journeys easily.

Saudi Arabia’s tourism ambitions

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia introduced the tourist visa in 2019 to help with the development and growth of its tourism industry.

The Gulf state launched a transit visa service in January, allowing travellers who are stopping over in the country to enter the country to perform Umrah and visit the Prophet’s Mosque, in addition to visiting tourist sites in the kingdom.

Read: Saudi Arabia’s new free stopover visa: Here’s what you need to know

Saudi Arabia welcomed 93 million travellers in 2022 and the country now aims to boost that number to 100 million visits in line with its National Tourism Strategy and Vision 2030. The government plans to invest around $1tn in the tourism industry by 2030 to increase the contribution of the tourism sector to the gross domestic product (GDP) to 10 per cent while creating as many as one million new jobs in the sector.

Earlier this year, Saudi Arabia created a new fund, the Events Investment Fund, to develop a sustainable infrastructure for the tourism, entertainment, cultural and sports sectors across the country.

Also read: Saudi Crown Prince launches Events Investment Fund, aims to boost culture, tourism, sports sectors

The fund is aimed at developing and increasing foreign direct investment opportunities for a GDP impact of $7.5bn (SAR28bn) by 2045, according to the state-run Saudi Press Agency.

The creation of the fund comes nearly three years after the ministry of tourism launched a $49bn Tourism Development Fund in 2020 to advance growth across the sector.

Saudi mega projects

Mega tourism projects

Saudi Arabia expects to open the doors of several tourism-focused projects including NEOM, Qiddiya, Diriyah Gate and King Salman Park over the next few years.

The $500bn NEOM project was established in 2019 and the futuristic city is now in the building phase with the first destination – Sindalah – due to open its doors for business in 2024. Construction is also underway in all other NEOM regions including THE LINE, Trojena and Oxagon.

The country’s wealth fund, Public Investment Fund, has invested significantly in these megaprojects. PIF said the projects are designed to stimulate the economy and their benefits are expected to expand significantly beyond the real estate and infrastructure sectors.

Visitors to Saudi Arabia are flocking to cultural landmarks, from the At-Turaif District in Diriyah, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, to the Hegra archaeological site in AlUla. They are also visiting historic Jeddah, in the west, and exploring the world’s largest palm oasis, Al-Ahsa, in the east.

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