RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s General Sports Authority (GSA) on Sunday announced details of its new electronic visa system, Sharek, which has gone live and will allow international motor racing fans to travel to the Kingdom for the December 15 Formula E race, the Saudia Ad Diriyah E Prix near Riyadh.
“Saudi Arabia is very excited to be inviting international tourists into Kingdom for the first time as tickets for the Saudia Ad Diriyah E-Prix go on sale via its new visa platform new Sharek,” GSA said in a statement.
Described as a ‘milestone’ for Saudi Arabia, www.sharek.sa/formulae has gone live. In a first move to open its borders to international visitors, GSA announced last Tuesday the launch of Sharek.
The platform offers a seamless ticket purchase and online visa application process for sporting fans from around the world wanting to experience the biggest festival of racing, live music and entertainment, including thrilling action on the track and global superstars performing on stage over three days at historical Ad Diriyah, on the outskirts of Riyadh.
With the tickets for the December 15 event now on sale, His Royal Highness Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki AlFaisal Al Saud, Vice-Chair of the Saudi Arabia General Sports Authority, said: “This is an exciting milestone for us. When you host international championships, you have international fans who want to attend. And, of course, the best way to see Saudi Arabia is to visit through sports, this isn’t just the first way, it is the best way.
“I want them to see Saudi Arabia, I want them to see my country, I want them to meet the people and to see who we really are. The best way for people to see the real Saudi Arabia is to come and this is their chance. We are very welcoming and I’m sure people will have a different point of view when they do.
“We are very lucky to have the support of His Royal Highness Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and hopefully this will be the starting point of more events and more accessibility for fans and for people who want to visit the Kingdom.”
The venue of the event, the ancient city of Ad Diriyah, the first seat of power for Saudi’s Kings, is itself a draw for international tourists, being a stunning UNESCO heritage site. Via www.sharek.sa/formulae, travelers who buy a ticket for the race can obtain a 14-day visa for SAR640, the equivalent of approximately $170.
That allows for full entrance to the event, free mobility within specific Saudi territories. Applicants simply need to complete their personal details online, upload a photograph and a copy of their passport, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will then confirm eligibility within seconds. After payment, the visa will be emailed to the international traveler and this can be printed off and used to enter Saudi Arabia. The Holy cities of Makkah and Madinah remain off-limits to non-Muslim travelers.
Alejandro Agag, CEO of Formula E, said: “We are the first event that will be enjoying this new system of visa, only by buying a ticket for the race you can come into Saudi Arabia with a visa. I think this means another element of how Saudi Arabia is opening up for tourism. I think that is a great change.”
Princess Haifa al Saud, secretary general of the Formula E local organising committee, said: “For the first time we get to show the world what Saudi Arabia is really about from the inside, to see our youth, to feel the energy that we have, to understand us more, our culture, our tradition, our background.
“They will see how full of energy and life we are and how much we are excited to host such an event here in our country.”
Tickets for the Saudia Ad Diriyah E-Prix start from SAR395 for a seat in the grandstand and concert access and are available at www.sharek.sa/formulae. International travelers are limited to one ticket per visa.