New Saudi visa scheme to be announced 27 September, 50 nationalities expected to benefit

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Updated 06 September 2019

New Saudi visa scheme to be announced 27 September, 50 nationalities expected to benefit

  • An event later this month will promote “the sights and sounds” of Saudi Arabia
  • Travel experts say tourism and leisure could account for 10 percent of gross domestic product by 2030

DUBAI: Saudi Arabia is putting the final touches to a “game changer” initiative to attract international tourists, with a visa scheme to open the Kingdom to visitors from up to 50 countries, Okaz newspaper reported.

Although not officially confirmed by the government, industry sources told Arab New an event to showcase Saudi tourist attractions would take place this month, with a major global advertising campaign launched in the presence of leading international travel and tourism experts.

Leisure tourism — in a market hitherto dominated by pilgrimage — is a vital part of the Vision 2030 plan to diversify the economy away from oil dependency. Travel experts say tourism and leisure could account for 10 percent of gross domestic product by 2030, adding more than $100 billion a year to the economy.

The event on Sept. 27 will promote “the sights and sounds” of Saudi Arabia to a regional and international audience. Progress on other tourism projects — such as a nationwide digital events calendar and plans to expand the successful “Saudi Seasons” concept — will also feature. 

Work is already underway on a luxury resort on the Red Sea coast, visitor facilities at the historic AlUla area and an entertainment city at Qiddiya outside Riyadh.

HIGHLIGHTS

• An event to showcase Saudi tourist attractions would take place on Sept. 27.

• Leisure tourism is a vital part of the Vision 2030 plan to diversify the economy away from oil dependency.

• Travel experts say tourism and leisure could account for 10 percent of GDP by 2030.

• The event will promote ‘the sights and sounds’ of the KSA to a regional and global audience.

The economic effects of new tourist visas will be significant. The World Travel and Tourism Council said leisure and tourism accounted for 9 percent of the Kingdom’s economy in 2018, and forecast it would rise to 10.4 percent by 2029, calculated by direct and indirect economic impact. 

The property consultancy Colliers International estimated in a recent report that tourism and travel would make up 9 percent of the total GDP by 2026.

Imad Damrah, managing director of Colliers Saudi Arabia, told Arab News that foreign tourism visas would have a significant impact. “It will be a game changer for tourism, leisure and entertainment in Saudi Arabia,” he said.

“It will not just encourage more new people to come, but it will be easier for people who have already decided to come.”

Damrah believes Saudi Arabia can hold its own in the global tourism business. “Let’s get some perspective on this. If you come to Saudi Arabia, you can still go to Florida, or Dubai, as well. Every destination has its own attraction,” he said.


King Salman urges Iran to junk its expansionist ideology

Updated 21 November 2019

King Salman urges Iran to junk its expansionist ideology

  • Saudi Arabia has suffered from the policies and practices of the Iranian regime and its proxies, king says
  • Kingdom also welcomed US decision to return Iran's Fordow nuclear facility to its sanctions list

RIYADH: Iran should abandon its expansionist ideology that has only “harmed” its own people, Saudi Arabia's King Salman said on Wednesday, following violent street protests in the Islamic republic.

A wave of demonstrations erupted in the sanctions-hit country on Friday after an announcement that petrol prices would be raised by as much as 200 percent with immediate effect.

“We hope the Iranian regime chooses the side of wisdom and realizes there is no way to overcome the international position that rejects its practices, without abandoning its expansionist and destructive thinking that has harmed its own people,” the king told the consultative Shoura Council.

“The kingdom has suffered from the policies and practices of the Iranian regime and its proxies,” King Salman said, quoted by the foreign ministry, reiterating that Riyadh does not seek war but is “ready to defend its people.”

A satellite image from Sept. 15, 2017, of the Fordow nuclear facility in Iran. (Google Earth)

Saudi Arabia has welcomed Washington's decision to return the Fordow nuclear facility in Iran to the sanctions list. 

Washington said on Monday that it will no longer waive sanctions related to Iran’s Fordow nuclear plant after Tehran resumed uranium enrichment at the underground site. 

“The right amount of uranium enrichment for the world’s largest state sponsor of terror is zero ... There is no legitimate reason for Iran to resume enrichment at this previously clandestine site,” US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told reporters earlier this week.