VIENNA: Prince Abdullah bin Khalid bin Sultan, the Kingdom’s ambassador to Austria, held the inauguration ceremony for tourist visas to Saudi Arabia in Vienna, the Austrian capital.
The event was attended by representatives of the Austrian Foreign Ministry, the Slovenian Tourist Board, members of the Austro-Arab Chamber of Commerce, travel agencies representatives and Austrian journalists.
“I am honored to share this historic moment with you. The Kingdom has recently opened its doors to tourists from 49 countries including Austria for a chance to witness its tourism, cultural and heritage richness,” he said.
Prince Abdullah encouraged the attendees to discover the Kingdom, its cultural heritage, diverse and breathtaking nature and generous people. He did so by showcasing the Saudi sites on UNESCO’s World Heritage List such as Mada’in Saleh, At-Turaif District in Ad-Diriyah, Historic Jeddah and Hail’s Rock Art, in addition to the unique characteristics that make Saudi Arabia a global tourist destination.
He also spoke of the tourism activities and events, and of the Kingdom’s keenness to diversify its economy, exchange business, investment and trade opportunities and to support the tourism and heritage sector in line with the ambitious 2030 Vision.
Attendees received a detailed briefing on how to get a tourist visa in 10 minutes.
The e-tourism visa service is a new initiative from the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage which allows citizens of 49 states to obtain visas through the platform visa.visitsaudi.com, or at the visa desk upon arrival in the Kingdom.
The commission said that any tourist can obtain a visa through self-service devices, smartphones, or visa offices at entry inlets. The tourist can stay in Saudi Arabia for a maximum 90 days during a given year.
Almost 24,000 foreign visitors entered Saudi Arabia in the 10 days after instant tourist visas were introduced at airports in the Kingdom, according to the Foreign Ministry.
China topped the visitor numbers with 7,391 arrivals, followed by the UK and US. Canada, Malaysia and Russia also had a significant number of visitors to the Kingdom.
Significantly, the new visa system also allows ease of access for Muslims to perform Umrah outside the Hajj season without the need for a sponsor, as is the case with work permit visas.
The newly launched visa system was introduced in a bid to create 1 million jobs in the Kingdom, as well as targeting 100 million tourists by 2030 as part of Saudi Vision 2030.