In a bid to develop the tourism sector, Saudi Arabia will start granting tourist visas to the citizens of 51 world countries starting from September 27.

Travelers will be able to get the new tourist visa by applying online or upon arrival. The visa processing may take about 30 minutes, and every applicant must pay a fee of SAR 440 (USD 118). While one can stay for a maximum of 90 days per entry, the total permitted period of stay will be 180 days per year.

The tourist visa holders will soon be able to visit the desert country and attend sports events, concerts and business attractions. So far, the conservative kingdom has issued visas only to resident workers, business travelers, and Muslim pilgrims. The latter are given special visas to travel to holy sites.

Visas designated specifically for tourism purposes were not available until last year. The first tourist visas were allowed in December 2018, for the Formula-E race, which was held in Riyadh.

However, under its Vision 2030 plan, the country has undertaken a series of changes, pushed by Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman. The country aims to increase total tourism spending in the kingdom — by local citizens as well as foreigners — to $46.6 billion in 2020. In 2015, the spending was $27.9 billion.

Among the major tourism projects, Saudi Arabia is transforming its Red Sea coastline to bring in holidaymakers and developing an entertainment city near the capital of Riyadh.

In August 2017, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman had announced a project to turn 50 islands and a string of sites on the Red Sea into luxury resorts.

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