Saudi Arabia Plans to Issue Tourist Visas in 2018

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is planning to issue visas to conventional visitors in 2018 in order to increase its tourism industry to 30 million visitors per year by 2030 — as well as increase annual spending by tourists to $47 billion by 2020 — while simultaneously reducing its reliance on the oil industry, as oil prices are currently depressed.

Saudi Arabia Plans to Issue Tourist Visas in 2018

That Saudi Arabia wants to increase tourism is of no surprise, as ambitious projects have been announced, planned, or already under way. As I first wrote in this article pertaining to my review of Burj Khalifa in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, the Kingdom Tower in Jeddah is expected to surpass Burj Khalifa as the tallest building in the world prior to its expected completion in 2018 and grand opening in 2019.

“Saudi Arabia does not offer tourist visas” was this response written and posted by Veejay, who is a reader of The Gate. “For the vast majority of us, therefore, the tallest building experience option will remain the Burj.” That no longer seems to be the case once those tourist visas are offered to the public.

A new “mega-city” is also being planned. “Saudi Arabia plans to build a new $500 billion metropolis that spans three countries”, according to this article written by Zahraa Alkhalisi for CNN Money. “The development, called NEOM, was announced at a conference on Tuesday by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. It’s the latest in a series of mega projects designed to reshape the kingdom’s economy.”

Saudi Arabia wants to convert hundreds of kilometers of its coastline of the Red Sea — including 50 islands and 34,000 square kilometers, which is an area bigger than the country of Belgium — into a global tourism destination to attract “luxury travelers from around the globe,” according to this article written by Alaa Shahine and Vivian Nereim of Bloomberg. Work is expected to launch in two years.

Six Flags is expected to open its first theme amusement park in Riyadh in 2021, with the potential of constructing two additional theme parks. “U.S.-based Six Flags announced in June that it had begun talks with the Saudi government to build theme parks as part of the kingdom’s efforts to expand its entertainment sector and diversify the economy”, according to this article reported by Katie Paul and edited by Mark Heinrich for Reuters. “Developing the leisure sector is fraught with difficulties in Saudi Arabia, which adheres to a strict social code where women are required to wear plain loose-fitting robes, cinemas are banned and public spaces are gender-segregated.”

The new projects are intended to supplement the historical and cultural heritage of Saudi Arabia — as well as the natural beauty and rich marine life which has largely been preserved…

…but security issues may dampen the spirits of some people who may otherwise want to visit Saudi Arabia. This travel warning — which was issued by the United States Department of State earlier this year for Saudi Arabia — certainly does not help promote tourism:

The State Department warns U.S. citizens to carefully consider the risks of travel to Saudi Arabia due to continuing threats from terrorist groups and the threat of ballistic missile attacks on civilian targets by rebel forces in Yemen.

Fees to obtain the visa could potentially be another issue. “First-time pilgrims are exempt from paying fees, local media reported, but second-time and subsequent visits incur a cost of SR2,000 ($533) fee for a single-entry visa. Business travel visas also incur a SR2,000 fee for the first time”, according to this article pertaining to how much Saudi Arabia’s new visa fees will cost you, as posted at Arabian Business. “For all other visitors, visa fees have been increased. A multiple-entry visa now costs SR3,000 ($799) for six months, SR5,000 for a year and SR8,000 for two years.”

Summary

“Would you consider a visit to Saudi Arabia?” asked Matthew Klint of Live and Let’s Fly in this article. Yes, I would consider it. I would consider visiting every country and territory in the world at least once — of course, some more favorably than others — but even with the issuance of tourist visas by Saudi Arabia, the chances of me being permitted to visit Makkah will most likely still be unlikely.

Source: Map data ©2017 Google; ©2017 TerraMetrics.

4 thoughts on “Saudi Arabia Plans to Issue Tourist Visas in 2018”

  1. Matthew says:

    Too bad about Mecca. I think from a cultural and historic perspective it is the #1 place in the world I want to go to.

  2. Geoff says:

    As soon as this “Kingdom” will serve me a beer by the pool I’ll consider booking. Having lived there for 6 six years, I doubt that comes to pass.

  3. Hal says:

    I would consider visiting Saudi Arabia once they let tourists in. My business partner was born there on an American company compound but hasn’t been able to go back since he’s not Muslim.
    Although, if my last name was Cohen, I wouldn’t put Saudi Arabia that high on the list.

  4. Sorab says:

    I would love to go some day, but I’ll probably wait until there’s ample information on the do’s and dont’s. I know someone who’s been there a few times & they certainly didn’t enjoy their stay. I’m hopeful things will get better with time.

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