quotes Saudi eVisas for easy visits

09 October 2022
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Updated 09 October 2022

Saudi eVisas for easy visits

I recently started to receive more calls than usual from my overseas friends.

Since the beginning of September, Egyptian and Jordanian friends have been telephoning me, asking to come visit me in Saudi Arabia. It took me a little while to determine what had caused this influx in interest. Then it dawned on me: These friends have one thing in common — they’re all living in the GCC.

My sudden surge in popularity coincided with the recent announcement that residents of all GCC countries can now apply for an eVisa to enter Saudi. 

This news is significant. For the first time ever, Saudi tourism is now open and easily accessible to a further 17 million residents in the GCC. One good friend on whom this has had an impact is Ahmed. I met Ahmed while we were studying in London, and he now lives and works as an engineer in Kuwait. I have not seen him for some years, but in November he plans to visit the Kingdom to see me and — more importantly for him — to experience some of the amazing places that Saudi has to offer, including AlUla.

Ahmed’s visit will coincide with the AlUla Ancient Kingdoms Festival in the middle of November, a celebration of the civilizations that once existed in the oases of AlUla, Khaybar, and Tayma. Ahmed is an archaeology fanatic — I think this is where his passion for engineering originated — and the exploration of the unique, untouched Nabatean site of Hegra or Dadan, from the ancient kingdom of the Dadanite civilization, is an opportunity to discover the rich culture and deep heritage of this diverse country.

It is not just GCC residents benefiting from Saudi’s new visa announcements. The Visa on Arrival scheme that was set up earlier this year has now been extended to residents of the UK, the US, and the EU, meaning that millions more can now enjoy Saudi as a unique tourism destination. This explains the phone call I received from my friend Bruno last week, saying he will be visiting Saudi in December. Bruno is Brazilian, but currently lives in Germany — a Schengen country — and is therefore eligible to visit Saudi with a visa on arrival.

Bruno has completely different interests to Ahmed, and told me that top of his list of things to experience is MDLBeast Soundstorm, which takes place in December. It is the biggest and loudest music festival in the region, with the 2021 festival entertaining more than 750,000 people, hosting over 200 regional and international artists on eight stages across four nights. I have no doubt that this year will be even better.

Ahmed and Bruno are not alone in their desire to visit Saudi. The Saudi Tourism Authority recently completed its trade roadshow in the GCC, spending five days in Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, the UAE, and Oman. The Kingdom was highlighted in each of these places as a dynamic, activity-packed winter-tourism destination. Private-sector Saudi tourism professionals engaged with partners and residents in these GCC states and discussed the diversity of opportunities for collaborations and partnerships between their respective tourism sectors. The feedback that I received was a deep sense of excitement among GCC residents about the possibility of visiting Saudi with such ease. 

It is going to be a busy few months for Saudi tourism. In addition to extra visitors coming over the winter, it was recently announced that World Cup Hayya Card holders attending the FIFA World Cup in Qatar in November and December are eligible for a 60-day multiple-entry visa for Saudi Arabia, beginning 10 days prior to the tournament. This is a wonderful opportunity for Saudi Arabia to be positioned as a gateway to the tournament.

It really is going to be a winter to remember in Saudi Arabia.

• Abdullah Al-Dakhil is an international communication manager at the Saudi Tourism Authority. He completed his postgraduate studies in London. His interests are traveling, tourism, culture and international economy. Twitter: @AbdullahADakhil