Saudi Arabia aims to start issuing tourist visas to foreigners next year as the government seeks to open up the conservative kingdom and find new sources of revenue to diversify its economy.
At present, foreigners travelling to Saudi Arabia are largely restricted to resident workers and their dependents, business travellers, and Muslim pilgrims who are given special visas to travel to holy sites.
“The targets are people who want to come and literally experience this country, and really the grandness of this country,” Prince Sultan bin Salman bin Abdulaziz, head of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Natural Heritage, said in an interview broadcast late on Wednesday.
Asked about plans for the visas, he replied: “Hopefully in 2018,” adding that the government would use online technology to make applying for visas easy.
Saudi Arabia’s 32-year-old heir to the throne, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, is seeking to develop new industries to wean his country off its dependency on oil exports.—Agencies