The cabinet of Saudi Arabia has backed a proposal on the establishment of electronic visas for foreign tourists. Travelers will soon be able to visit the desert country and attend sports events, concerts and business attractions with only an electronic visa.
The move has been undertaken in a bid to diversify the economy of Saudi Arabia and open up its society.
So far, Saudi Arabia 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.
It is estimated that the process to obtain a new Saudi electronic visa will take only a few minutes. Saudi Arabian Embassies and Consulates will then process the application within 24 hours. Yet, it is still unknown when this visa will become available for application.