Saudi Arabia issued more than 400,000 tourist visas in six months

Saudi Arabia issued more than 400,000 tourist visas in six months
Above, Polish tourists pose fo a photograph as they vist the King Abdulaziz museum of Masmak in the old quarter of Riyadh on Oct. 17, 2019. (AFP)
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Updated 14 December 2020

Saudi Arabia issued more than 400,000 tourist visas in six months

Saudi Arabia issued more than 400,000 tourist visas in six months
  • The new system allows citizens from 49 countries easier access to visit the Kingdom

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Tourism issued more than 400,000 tourist visas in the first six months of its new tourist visa system following its launch in September 2019, the ministry has confirmed.

The new system allowed citizens from 49 countries the opportunity to apply for an e-visa online or get a visa on arrival into Saudi Arabia for the first time.

The ministry said that the new system helped to boost investment in the tourism sector, develop the national economy and increase job opportunities within the sector. The Kingdom aims to increase the tourism sector’s contribution to the gross domestic product (GDP) to 10 percent by 2030.

The ministry said it provided SR160 million ($42.66 million) in loans to support the tourism sector.

The Kingdom also created a national destination promoter, the Saudi Tourism Authority, and launched a $9 billion Tourism Development Fund, made up of $4 billion in capital investment and $5 billion in agreed memorandum of understandings (MoUs) with private banks.

Through these developments the Kingdom aims to become one of the world’s premium tourism destinations in the next ten years. Forbes Magazine reported that, by 2022, the Kingdom intends for tourism to contribute 4.5 percent to its GDP and add an additional 260,000 jobs, 150,000 hotel rooms and 62 million tourism visits a year.

The Kingdom is also pushing ahead with the construction of a number of giga-projects designed to attract international and domestic tourists, create millions of jobs and bring foreign investment into the economy. These include NEOM, the Red Sea Project, Amaala, and Qiddiya.

Tourism plays a key role in Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 plan for economic diversification, and the ministry hopes that this will open the door for investors.

In an October interview with CNBC about Saudi Arabia continuing to build projects despite the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, Minister of Tourism Ahmad bin Aqil Al-Khateeb said that now was “absolutely the time” to charge ahead with plans for the giga-projects, and that their goals were aligned with those of Vision 2030.


Emirates stops flights to three major Australian cities

Emirates stops flights to three major Australian cities
Updated 12 min 29 sec ago

Emirates stops flights to three major Australian cities

Emirates stops flights to three major Australian cities
  • Flights to/from Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne will be suspended until further notice: Emirates
  • The airline will still run two flights a week to Perth

DUBAI: Emirates has suspended flights to Australia's three largest cities as the country further restricts international arrivals over fears of new virus strains.
The Dubai-based carrier was one of the last to maintain routes into and out of the country's east coast throughout most of the pandemic but on Friday evening told travellers a handful of planned flights next week would be the last.
"Due to operational reasons, Emirates flights to/from Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne will be suspended until further notice," Emirates said on its website.
The airline will still run two flights a week to Perth, but the cuts are another barrier for tens of thousands of stranded Australians still attempting to return home.
The Australian government responded by announcing more repatriation flights and said other carriers still flying services to the cities could fill the gap.
"The capacity that Emirates was able to use within the cap will be allocated to other airlines, ensuring that there are still as many tickets, as many seats available into Australia," Finance Minister Simon Birmingham said.
A small number of airlines - including Qatar Airways and Singapore Airlines - are still running services to Australia but local media were already reporting delays and cancellations among returning travellers.
Australia's borders have effectively been closed since March to curb the spread of the virus, with the government even limiting the number of citizens allowed to return.
Last week travel restrictions were further tightened, with arrival numbers slashed and all travellers into the country requiring a negative Covid-19 test before flying.
In making the changes, Prime Minister Scott Morrison cited a growing number of people in quarantine testing positive for new strains of Covid-19.
Fears that a variant of the virus from Britain, believed to be more contagious, had leaked into Brisbane from hotel quarantine triggered a snap lockdown in the city last week.
"There are many unknowns and uncertainties in relation to the new strain, and so that's why this precautionary approach, we believe, is very sensible," Morrison said.
Australia continues to deal relatively well with the virus, having recorded about 28,600 cases and 909 deaths linked to Covid-19 in a population of 25 million.