Saudi Arabia’s Shoura Council approved the restructuring of the visa system covering visit, Hajj and transit visas on Wednesday, local daily Saudi Gazette reported.
The Council’s decision was based on a report submitted by the Security Affairs committee, the report stated.
Earlier this month, it was announced that the kingdom was restructuring its visa system for pilgrims travelling to the kingdom for Hajj and Umrah.
Under the new system, pilgrims arriving for Hajj and Umrah – as well as visitors and those requiring a transit visa – will pay SAR300 (about $80). Fees for repeat Umrah visits have also been cancelled.
The fee is a significant cut from the previous cost of SAR2,000 (about $540) for repeating an Umrah pilgrimage within three years.
“This also shows kingdom’s readiness to receive the increasing number of Hajj and Umrah pilgrims through huge infrastructure projects and improving the system of services in Makkah, Madinah and the holy sites,” Saudi minister of Hajj and Umrah Mohammed Benten said in a statement to the Saudi Press Agency (SPA).
The move also comes as Saudi Arabia reportedly prepares to begin issuing tourist visas on September 27.
Saudi has been focussing on boosting its tourism sector as part of its ambitious Vision 2030 strategy to diversify its economy away from oil.
As part of the strategy, the kingdom aims to attract 1.5 million tourists by 2020 and increase the revenue generated from tourism to 18 per cent in the next 14 years. The number of tourists visiting the kingdom stands at around 200,000.