The Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage (SCTNH) has completed regulation for granting tourist visas to visit the kingdom, according to the Centre for International Communication (CIC).
The state-run news agency said the regulation has now been submitted to the government for approval and an official announcement is expected soon.
The new tourist regulation is expected to provide a boost to the kingdom’s travel industry, which to date has largely relied on domestic, business and religious visitors.
Reports last year suggested the kingdom was already allowing travel agencies to issue tourist visas for tour groups.
SCTNH said the regulation had been put together in consultation with the government, investors and tourism and transport workers.
An integrated system has also been developed to process and record visa transactions.
“The National Transformation Programme 2020, has adopted the ‘tourist visa’ as one of the important initiatives with high economic feasibility, which will exert a direct influence on upgrading the quality of services, resolving the issue of seasonality, and controlling the prices of tourism-related services,” SCTNH said.
The government has earmarked travel and tourism as a key driver of its Vision 2030 plan to diversify the economy.
Around 900,000 Saudis work in the sector and the kingdom welcomed an estimated 18 million visitors in 2017, who were mostly Hajj and Umrah pilgrims.
Among the attractions Saudi Arabia hopes will lure visitors are archaeological sites including Madain Saleh, which dates back to the Nabatean Empire that founded Petra in Jordan, the small historic city of Diriyah near Riyadh and other UNESCO World Heritage sites at Al-Balad and the Rock Art area of the Hail region.
Last year, the kingdom unveiled plans to develop a 30,000 square kilometre stretch of islands, beaches and other attractions on the Red Sea in partnership with hotel operators.
The area would be accessible to most nationalities without a visa and offer beaches, scuba diving and more than 50 island resorts.
It is expected to boost the local economy by SAR15bn ($4bn), provide 35,000 jobs and welcome one million visitors annually when finished.