2 million women on Absher as Saudi app users surge

The Absher website also provides information on how to report wanted persons, or administrative or financial corruption. (Supplied)
Updated 28 February 2019

2 million women on Absher as Saudi app users surge

  • Absher is widely regarded as the region’s leading platform for accessing government services

RIYADH: More than 2 million women are now using Absher, the “one-click” app that provides instant access to Saudi Ministry of Interior services.

“The number of women using Absher increased remarkably in 2018,” Absher manager Atiyah Al-Anazy told Arab News.

Not only that, but women who do use the app are also using it more. “We found female users have more services now, with driving licenses, account registration, so they have more need,” Al-Anazy said.

He was speaking at annual event to showcase existing Absher services and highlight new ones on the way — the latest of which is banking.

“Now people will be able to open bank accounts through Absher,” Brig. Gen. Khaled Alkhesifan, director of technology at Jawazat, the passport agency, told Arab News.

“We always listen to our customers through social media, and if there is a demand for certain services we do our best to arrange it.”

Absher, created in 2007, is widely regarded as the region’s leading platform for accessing government services. Available to both Saudi nationals and expatriates, it allows them to avoid time-consuming bureaucracy and lengthy queues.

“Now the number of Absher users has reached 11.6 million, accessing more than 160 services,” said Alkhesifan. “And we will keep adding new ones.”

For example, Absher users can now delegate and authorize someone else to visit Jawazat and complete the necessary formalities on their behalf to make use of services and obtain documents.

“And if you lose your Iqama (residency card) you can log in to your Absher account and report it immediately,” Alkhesifan said.


Easing visa regulations makes Russia big attraction for Saudis

Russia witnessed a 10 percent increase in international tourists in 2018. (AN photo by Huda Bashatah)
Updated 18 min 53 sec ago

Easing visa regulations makes Russia big attraction for Saudis

  • Tourists can visit the country’s regions by simply applying online

MOSCOW: Walking the cobblestone streets around Moscow’s Red Square, tourists from far and wide enjoy the crisp, cool fall air, surrounded by architectural wonders dating back hundreds of years.
Similar to Saudi Arabia, which has begun promoting tourism for the first time, Russia has opened its doors wider to the world by easing visit restrictions, increasing the flow of tourists.
Zarina Doguzova, head of the Federal Agency for Tourism of the Russian Federation, explains to Arab News the dynamics behind it all. “Russia is now very focused on easing visa restrictions and formalities. At the moment, an electronic visa is used for tourists coming to the regions of the Far East, as well as to the Kaliningrad region. And just a very short while ago, an electronic visa regime went live in the territory of St. Petersburg and the Leningrad region,” said Doguzova.
Doguzova stressed to Arab News the importance of working with Saudi Arabia to increase mutual openness and to develop a successful travel industry in both countries.
“Saudi Arabia is on the list of countries whose tourists can visit Russian regions using an electronic visa. We are always happy to see tourists from your country visiting us. Moreover, from Jan. 1, 2021, an electronic visa will work throughout Russia, and we consider it a real breakthrough for global tourism. The same can be said about Saudi Arabia — the things you are doing are a new step in the development of global tourism,” she added.
Doguzova went on to explain that a significant easing of visa restrictions increases incoming tourism by an average of 10-15 percent for a country.
“Tourism is at the intersection of the economy and the country’s image, and that is why its value is even higher. Therefore, we are now developing the concept of Russia’s systematic promotion in international markets in terms of tourism potential.”
Russia is one of the 49 countries on the list recently announced by Saudi Arabia whose citizens will be able to apply for tourist visas to the Kingdom for the first time.
Ahmed Al-Khateeb, president of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage (SCTH), announced on Sept. 27, 2019, at an event held in the Kingdom’s capital that international investors agreed to invest SR115 billion ($30 billion) in the tourism sector.
Al-Khateeb and Doguzova met at the 23rd session of the General Assembly of the UN World Tourism Organization held in St. Petersburg in September, the first high-level event hosted by Russia for the UN in the field of tourism.

FASTFACT

14,000 Saudis attended the 2018 FIFA World Cup using FanID, an identification document required by the Russian authorities that provided visa-free entry to Russia for foreigners that purchased tickets to the match.

At 6.6 million sq. miles, Russia is the largest country in the world in terms of landmass and an exotic destination for many. The 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia gave it a serious incentive to develop tourism, with 14,000 Saudis arriving under the FanID visa that was launched before the start of the games. The e-visa system allowed fans to enter Russia visa-free once they had purchased their match tickets.
The number of tourists has soared since then, placing Russia on the global travel map. Russia saw a 10 percent increase in international tourists, with 4.2 million tourists overall in 2018, the state-run Vesti news website reported, citing the Federal Security Service (FSB) border guards.
Doguzova said there are many points of interest for both Saudi Arabia and the Russian Federation to maintain a mutual tourist flow.
With President Vladimir Putin’s state visit to Saudi Arabia, Doguzova hopes that both countries will sign the first framework agreement on tourism.
“For the first time, the Russian Federal Agency for Tourism has drafted such a document and agreed on it with the interested parties. This agreement will create a legal basis for further cooperation in tourism and will contribute to the development of tourism between our countries,” she said.
Doguzova noted that Russia has previously raised the issue of a possible visa-free regime between both countries and will continue to discuss the issue. “We are excited about Saudi Arabia’s efforts to promote tourism. A trend to lift visa restrictions is underway in the world because people want to cross the borders at will in order to travel. Visa liberalization is now taking place all over the world, and both Saudi Arabia and Russia are making significant progress in this field.”
“We want millions of tourists from all over the world, including Saudi Arabia, to discover our country,” she added.