Picture courtesy: CIC Saudi Arabia on Twitter
Saudi Arabia is 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. In the lead-up to the visa issuance, the government has been engaging with influencers and rolling out a public relations campaign on social media in a bid to attract visitors.
— سلطان الظاهر (@suldhaher) September 14, 2019
Saudi Arabia has long been among the hardest countries in the world to visit for non-Muslims and those who are not businesspeople or pilgrims. However, the government in recent years has been working to develop tourism as part of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s Vision 2030 economic initiatives.
Last year, Saudi Arabia began issuing visas for special events, such as Formula E races near Riyadh and special concerts featuring the likes of Mariah Carey.