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.


Houthi attack on Saudi Aramco facilities act of terror: Japanese defense minister

Updated 37 min 27 sec ago

Houthi attack on Saudi Aramco facilities act of terror: Japanese defense minister

TOKYO: Taro Kono, the defense minister of Japan, said that threats to his country’s oil supply was the “most worrying scenario” he could imagine in international relations, in the wake of attacks on Saudi Arabian oil production facilities. 

“The most pessimistic scenario right now is that something happens in the Straits of Hormuz and the oil supply gets cut down, and that would send a shock wave through the global economy. I think the price of oil is already rising after this attack on Saudi facilities, so that’s the most worrying scenario right now,” he told a conference in Tokyo, Japan.

However, speaking on the sidelines to Arab News, he insisted that Saudi Arabia would remain a reliable partner of Japan - which imports around 40 per cent of its crude from the Kingdom - and downplayed concerns about long-term supply problems.

“Saudi has been and will be an important source of our energy supply. We have international co-ordination, and we have reserves, so we are not really worried about that,” he said. 

Kono, who was until recently Japan’s foreign minister, said that his country would be seeking to promote diplomatic solutions to the latest Middle East conflagration. "We definitely need to ease the tension between those countries. As Foreign Minister, the last thing I was doing was calling the Iranian Foreign Minister and the French Foreign Minister to ease the tension the region through diplomatic actions, and I think it's important to continue doing it.

“This Houthi attack on Saudi is a little different, because it's a terrorist attack. I think we may require some kind of military operation against those drone attacks, and that's something out of Japan's constitutional boundary. I think Japan will be focusing on diplomatic efforts in easing tension in the region.”

He raised concerns about the apparent lack of sophistication in the recent attacks. “If it is really drones, that is a lot cheaper than any form of conventional missile,” he said.