Saudi Arabia to offer first-ever international tourist visas

RIYADH, Annika Burgess (dpa)- Saudi Arabia will open its doors to international tourists for the first time under a new visa regime to be announced later Friday, the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage said.
The move is part of the kingdom's efforts to wean its economy off oil. Riyadh aims to increase international and domestic visits to 100 million a year by 2030.

"Opening Saudi Arabia to international tourists is a historic moment for our country," Ahmad Al-Khateeb, the chairman of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage, said on Friday.
The tourist visa system will take effect from Saturday, Saudi newspaper Okaz reported.
The new visa system will be available to citizens of 49 countries, the report said without elaborating.
Details about the scheme and wider tourism plans will be announced at a gala event on Friday evening (local time) at Ad-Diriyah, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Riyadh.
Saudi Arabia has long been one of the hardest countries for tourists to enter, with visas only granted for short-term business trips, religious pilgrimage, or for travellers with family in the country.
The ultra-conservative kingdom is on a push to attract holidaymakers.
In 2016, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed launched Vision 2030, a grand scheme aimed at diversifying the monarchy's oil-reliant economy.
The tourism announcement comes less than two weeks after drone attacks targeted two facilities operated by Saudi state oil giant Aramco in the eastern province of Buqyaq, forcing the kingdom to halt about half its oil supplies afterwards.
Saudi Arabia and the United States have blamed the attack on Iran, a regional rival of Riyadh. Tehran has denied involvement.

Friday, September 27th 2019
Annika Burgess (dpa)

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