RIYADH: Holders of the 2022 Qatar World Cup Hayya card are welcome to visit Saudi Arabia, the Kingdom’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on Wednesday.
The card, which Doha authorities will issue to all football fans attending the competition, allows holders to enter Qatar and access stadiums. Other benefits include free public transport on match days. The world cup kicks off on November 20 and continues through December.
The ministry said that holders of a Hayya card will be able to apply for an electronic visa that allows them to enter the Kingdom beginning 10 days before the start of the competition. It added that applications will be made through the Saudi Unified National Visa Platform and full details of the process will be announced later.
Successful applicants will receive a multiple-entry visa that allows them to remain in the Kingdom for up to 60 days. Previous entry to Qatar is not required but all visitors must have medical insurance.
Khalid Al-Rubian, a member of the Saudi Sport Marketing Association, told Arab news that it is important that government departments coordinate their efforts to take advantage of the great opportunity the World Cup provides to attract visitors to the Kingdom.
“Saudi government agencies should work together to create a unified system to maximize investment during the World Cup being held in a neighboring country,” he said.
He highlighted the vital roles of the Ministry of Tourism and the General Entertainment Authority in marketing Saudi tourism to football fans during the competition by introducing them to Saudi Arabia and top attractions in the country that are “historical, religious, cultural or in geographical areas attractive to travelers.”
Mutaz Abugabala, the executive director of Business Solutions Group, which specializes in event management, said investment in tourism is part of the Kingdom’s plans to develop and diversify the economy to reduce its dependence on oil.
Sultan Al-Mutairi, director of the research center at King Saud University’s Faculty of Tourism and Antiquities, said tourism is a sector in which economic activity is growing in Qatar and Saudi Arabia. He added that tourists are interest in visiting nations in the region because of their “cultural excellence.”
Unifying entry regulations of countries in the Gulf Cooperation Council area would help to make them more attractive as potential hosts of events and provide opportunities for enhanced marketing efforts, said Al-Mutairi.
The Kingdom’s Eastern Province is likely to be one of the most popular tourist destinations during the World Cup, he predicted. Al-Ahsa, for example, offers a variety of attractive destinations, he said, including its date-palm oasis, which is a World Heritage Site, while Qatif’s old city and many other archaeological sites are also known for their natural beauty and cultural heritage.
Local airlines previously announced that they will provide hundreds of daily shuttle flights during the World Cup for football fans traveling to Qatar from across the Gulf region. Saudia said it will operate 40 flights a day, with carriers in the UAE, Kuwait and Oman announcing similar plans.