RIYADH: Saudi missions overseas are gearing up for a deluge of online applications for tourist visas as a new system goes into full operation.
Already, 9,000 one-off e-visas have been issued for visitors to attend four recent events in the Kingdom — Formula E motor racing, the Italian Super Cup football match in Jeddah, the King Abdul Aziz Camel Festival, and the Winter at Tantora festival in Al-Ula.
“There is a huge demand for tourism, especially from the US, European countries and Japan,” Khalid Al-Kahtani, a counselor at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ visa department, told Arab News.
As part of plans to turn the country into a global tourist hub hosting international attractions, the government has adopted new technology that will allow embassies and consulates to issue electronic visas within 24 hours of receiving a request. Saudi missions abroad were aiming to become the quickest in the world for turning around applications, Al-Kahtani said.
He said women from abroad were free to visit without a male guardian.
Under the visa upgrade, the Saudi General Investment Authority, General Sports Authority and General Entertainment Authority will provide the Foreign Ministry and state security with details of events at least two months in advance for inclusion on the visa system.