Saudi Arabia to offer tourist visas for the first time

Saudi Arabia to offer tourist visas for the first time
Locations such as AlUla (shown above), NEOM, and the Red Sea are all being touted as potential tourist locations. (SPA photo)
Updated 03 October 2019

Saudi Arabia to offer tourist visas for the first time

Saudi Arabia to offer tourist visas for the first time
  • Tourists from 38 countries in Europe, 7 in Asia, as well as the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, will be eligible to apply for the new visas
  • Tourism chief says foreign women are not required to wear abayas, provided that they wear “modest clothing”

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia on Friday formally announced that tourist visas will be issued for the first time to visitors from 49 countries around the world.

The Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage (SCTH) made the announcement at an event in Ad-Diriyah, an ancient city that is now a leading tourist destination.

Kickstarting tourism is one of the centerpieces of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s Vision 2030 reform program to prepare the biggest Arab economy for a post-oil era.

At the launch event that coincided with World Tourism Day, the president of SCTH Ahmed Al-Khateeb said that “the Kingdom opens its doors to the world at this historic moment, and we are a people that welcomes visitors and offers hospitality to guests.”

He added that international investors had agreed to invest SAR115 billion ($30 billion) into the tourism sector on Friday.

“Opening Saudi Arabia to international tourists is a historic moment for our country,” Tourism chief Ahmed Al-Khateeb said in a previous statement.

“Visitors will be surprised... by the treasures we have to share — five UNESCO World Heritage Sites, a vibrant local culture and breathtaking natural beauty.”

Al-Khateeb said the Kingdom will also ease its strict dress code for foreign women, allowing them to go without the abaya robe that is still mandatory public wear for Saudi women.

Foreign women, however, will be required to wear “modest clothing,” he added, without elaborating.

Tourists from 38 countries in Europe, 7 in Asia, as well as the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, will be eligible to apply for the new visas. 

These will cost SR300 ($80), with an additional cost of SR140 for travel insurance, sources earlier told Arab News.

The visas will be valid for 360 days from the date of issue for stays of 90 days or less, and for a total of no more than 180 days in a single year.

For residents of those 49 countries, visas will be obtainable online via a seven-minute application process, or on arrival at machine kiosks or special counters in any of Saudi Arabia’s four international airports.

Applications for the tourist visas will commence on Sept. 28. The visa announcement was teased via a website and on social media by way of a video campaign, hashtagged “Where in the world?” which featured several shots of Saudi landmarks and natural wonders, prompting viewers to guess where they might be.

According to SCTH, the website has garnered over 94 million views since going live. SCTH announced on Thursday night that they have established a SR15 billion fund to support tourism projects across the Kingdom, according to reports.

They also said that they had conducted field research by inviting 100 “invisible tourists” to Saudi Arabia to gauge public reaction to their presence, but also to garner their feedback on how they found Saudi Arabia and what could be improved.

Marketing Saudi Arabia as a tourist location is one of the main goals of Vision 2030, the Kingdom’s ambitious plan to move the country away from its heavy reliance on oil as its main source of income.

While religious tourism has also been a key factor in Saudi Arabia’s income, with pilgrims from all over the world coming to Saudi Arabia to visit the holy sites of Makkah and Madinah, the government has been keen to market the rest of Saudi Arabia as a tourist destination as well.

Locations such as AlUla, NEOM, and the Red Sea are all being touted as potential tourist locations, with many other areas of the country preparing to meet the expected crowds as well. SCTH told reporters at the press conference that there are 10,000 historical locations all over the country, five of which are UNESCO World Heritage sites.
 


Arab coalition intercepts, destroys Houthi drones targeting Saudi Arabia’s Jazan, Khamis Mushait

Arab coalition intercepts, destroys Houthi drones targeting Saudi Arabia’s  Jazan, Khamis Mushait
Updated 06 March 2021

Arab coalition intercepts, destroys Houthi drones targeting Saudi Arabia’s Jazan, Khamis Mushait

Arab coalition intercepts, destroys Houthi drones targeting Saudi Arabia’s  Jazan, Khamis Mushait
  • Spokesman Col. Turki Al-Maliki said the coalition destroyed eight drones in the past 24 hours
  • The recent Houthi attacks received multiple condemnations from Arab countries

DUBAI: The Arab coalition on Saturday intercepted and destroyed two Houthi drones targeting Saudi Arabia’s Jazan and Khamis Mushait, state news agency SPA reported.
Spokesman Col. Turki Al-Maliki said the coalition destroyed eight drones in the past 24 hours.
He added that the Iranian-backed militia’s attempts to attack civilians in a deliberate and systematic manner constituted war crimes.
Al-Maliki said the coalition had put in place measures to protect civilians in accordance with international humanitarian law.
Earlier on Friday, the coalition intercepted and destroyed six Houthi drones targeting the southwestern Saudi city of Khamis Mushayt.
The recent Houthi attacks received multiple condemnations from countries including the UAE, Egypt, Bahrain and Jordan where they stated their full support for the Kingdom in its fight against the militia.
Kuwait’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has also said that the continuation of these crimes confirms the militia’s dangerous escalations and its intent to harm the security of Saudi Arabia and undermine the stability of the region.


Ministry campaign checks COVID-19 measures in Riyadh mosques

Ministry campaign checks COVID-19 measures in Riyadh mosques
Updated 06 March 2021

Ministry campaign checks COVID-19 measures in Riyadh mosques

Ministry campaign checks COVID-19 measures in Riyadh mosques

RIYADH: The Riyadh branch of the Ministry of Islamic Affairs, Dawah and Guidance on Friday organized an awareness and monitoring campaign to ensure mosques were implementing COVID-19 precautionary and preventive measures, the Saudi Press Agency reported.
The campaign was carried out in cooperation with the General Directorate of Health Affairs in Riyadh and a number of volunteer associations.
Healthcare volunteers and mosque supervisors took part in the campaign. Participants told worshippers to comply with social distancing measures, use their own prayer mats, and wear a face mask at all times.
They also organized the entry and exit of worshippers, in addition to distributing masks and prayer mats among them.
The director general of the ministry’s branch in Riyadh, Ahmed Al-Fares, said the campaign aimed to help raise awareness about COVID-19 prevention methods.
He added that the campaign was in line with the efforts of various state agencies to fight the pandemic and also promote a culture of volunteering among government bodies.

The Kingdom vs. COVID-19
How Saudi Arabia acted swiftly and coordinated a global response to fight the coronavirus, preventing a far worse crisis at home and around the world
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Saudis behind ‘The Journey’ anime trained in Japan

Saudis behind ‘The Journey’ anime trained in Japan
‘The Journey’ tells a historical story from the Arabian Peninsula where a potter with a mysterious past, Aws, takes part in an epic battle to defend his city. (Supplied)
Updated 06 March 2021

Saudis behind ‘The Journey’ anime trained in Japan

Saudis behind ‘The Journey’ anime trained in Japan
  • The film’s promotional video has already received support from Saudi entertainment officials, ministries and young people

JEDDAH: The 300 young Saudis who went to Japan to receive training in the art of manga will be able to see their new anime film on the cinematic big screen this summer.
The term manga is used in Japan to refer to both comics and cartooning, as the famous art form has been gaining popularity in the Kingdom for years.
That is why the Manga Productions Company recruited hundreds of young Saudis to come to the Toei Animation Studios to work on the first Saudi-Japanese anime film “The Journey.”
The company’s CEO Essam Bukhary, who is also the executive producer for the film, described the project as “the result of Saudi creative content production in cooperation with high-level international partners.”
Directed by the renowned Shizuno Kobun, the anime film took two-and-a-half years to make as the Saudi and Japanese staff succeeded in creating a blend of each country’s culture.
“Those young men and women worked along with the Japanese team on all the phases of the work, starting from writing the story, designing the characters, backgrounds, storyboard, editing, reviewing and others,” Bukhary told the YaHala TV show on Rotana Khalijia.
He said “The Journey” tells a historical story from the Arabian Peninsula where a potter with a mysterious past, Aws, takes part in an epic battle to defend his city.
Bukhary said the film will be displayed in both Arabic and Japanese.

HIGHLIGHT

Directed by the renowned Shizuno Kobun, the anime film took two-and-a-half years to make as the Saudi and Japanese staff succeeded in creating a blend of each country’s culture.

The film’s promotional video has already received support from Saudi entertainment officials, ministries and young people.
Saudi Royal Court adviser Turki Al-Sheikh, who is also the General Entertainment Authority chairman, tweeted: “I am ready to help with anything I can do.”
In another tweet, the Saudi Media Ministry posted: “The Journey, which will be displayed in the Middle East and North Africa this summer, represents a big cinematic step based on the Saudi Arabian heritage.”
The Japanese Embassy in Riyadh is excited for the film’s debut this summer and also praised both countries for their cooperation on the project.
Khaled Ibrahim, a Saudi digital illustrator, said the Kingdom is full of talented young men and women who just need studios where they can make similar animations and cartoons.
“The work that Manga Production has done, in collaboration with the famous Japanese Toei Animation, is a source of pride to us all,” he told Arab News.
Ibrahim said he was thrilled to hear that the company insisted on giving Saudis the chance to take part in courses on animation making.
“This could become the cornerstone for a new local industry,” he said.


Who’s Who: Muhammad Ali Albakri, IATA senior vice president for customer, financial and digital services

Who’s Who: Muhammad Ali Albakri, IATA senior vice president for customer, financial and digital services
Updated 06 March 2021

Who’s Who: Muhammad Ali Albakri, IATA senior vice president for customer, financial and digital services

Who’s Who: Muhammad Ali Albakri, IATA senior vice president for customer, financial and digital services

Muhammad Ali Albakri has been appointed senior vice president for customer, financial and digital services at the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

Since January 2017, Albakri held the role of regional vice president for the Africa and Middle East region.

Succeeding Aleks Popovich, Albakri is now responsible for IATA’s financial settlement products and services. He will be expected to process more than $450 billion of industry every year.
His responsibilities also include strengthening IATA’s client and customer activities, along with the company’s digital transformation initiatives for the benefit of the aviation industry.
IATA’s Director General and CEO Alexandre de Juniac said Popovich left behind a great team with a clear focus on customer service that will continue to drive critical changes under Albakri’s capable leadership.
The company’s website described Albakri as “an agent of change,” who will transform the MENA team to better serve member needs and pioneer the work of IATA’s digital transformation advisory council.
“Albakri is well prepared to guide the development of IATA’s commercial offerings, settlement services and digital leadership,” de Juniac said in a statement. “In normal times, these are critical functions, even more so in the middle of an industry crisis.”
Albakri previously worked for Saudia, the Kingdom’s national flag carrier, and served as its vice president of information technology. From 2009 to 2016, he was in charge of strengthening the company’s technology infrastructure and modernizing its financial practices. Albakri earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in information sciences from the University of Pittsburgh.


Cinemas, gyms and restaurants to reopen in Saudi Arabia

Cinemas, gyms and restaurants to reopen in Saudi Arabia
Updated 06 March 2021

Cinemas, gyms and restaurants to reopen in Saudi Arabia

Cinemas, gyms and restaurants to reopen in Saudi Arabia
  • All events and parties will continue to be suspended until further notice
  • Social gatherings remain restricted to a maximum of 20 people

RIYADH: Cinemas, gyms and sports centers will be allowed to reopen in Saudi Arabia from Sunday.
Indoor dining can also resume in restaurants and cafes along with other recreational activities, the interior ministry said on Friday.
However, all events and parties will continue to be suspended until further notice. This includes weddings, corporate meetings, events in banquet halls and social events.
Social gatherings remain restricted to a maximum of 20 people.
The Kingdom suspended recreational events on Feb. 3 to halt the spread of COVID-19. The suspension was extended on Feb. 14 for 20 days.
The ministry urged people to adhere to measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus and said there would be an increase in spot checks to ensure everyone followed the rules.

The Kingdom vs. COVID-19
How Saudi Arabia acted swiftly and coordinated a global response to fight the coronavirus, preventing a far worse crisis at home and around the world
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