Citizens from 49 nations can now obtain a tourist visa for Saudi Arabia.
Saudi Arabia has begun issuing tourist visas to a range of nationalities in an effort to open up the kingdom to foreign visitors and relieve its economic dependence on oil.
On Friday, the eVisa Portal opened marking the first time foreigners will be able to visit solely for the purpose of tourism.
Citizens of the following countries can now obtain a 90-day tourist visa:
All European Union countries, Andorra, Australia, Brunei, Canada, China, Hong Kong, Iceland, Japan, Kazakhstan, South Korea, Liechtenstein, Macau, Malaysia, Monaco, Montenegro, New Zealand, Norway, Russia, San Marino, Singapore, Switzerland, Taiwan, Ukraine and the United States.
Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman and United Arab Emirates citizens will continue to be visa exempt, only needing a national ID card to enter the country.
Qatari and Israeli citizens remained barred.
Investment from the country’s sovereign wealth fund has been earmarked for major tourist hotspots along the Red Sea coastline.
A multi-billion dollar project to turn 50 islands into luxury resorts is already underway.
In addition, an entertainment city, in partnership with the Six Flags amusement park corporation, is being planned just outside the capital city, Riyadh.
Saudi Arabia targets tourism to rise from 3% to 10% of gross domestic product by the year 2030.
“From this historic place and during this special day – Tourism Day – we are pleased to announce that we will receive tourists from several places of the world,” said Ahmed Al-Khateeb, chairman of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Heritage.
“We are a people of hospitality.”
The visa information website instructs women to cover their shoulders and knees but have not demanded they wear the full-body abaya.
A huge challenge for Saudi Arabia will be overcoming stereotypes about one of the world’s most conservative nations.
The country also has a poor record on human rights.
Last year’s killing of Saudi writer Jamal Khashoggi in Turkey by Saudi agents and the reported torture of several detained women’s rights activists could hamper the kingdom’s tourism plans.
However, Saudi Arabia have remained positive and believe the project will be successful.
“We have not witnessed any specific slow down since [the death of Khashoggi],” said Amr Madani, chief executive officer of the Royal Commission of al-Ula, a city which houses Saudi Arabia’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site.
“Our partners have been with us and continue to be with us, and we would work to engage them more.”
The eVisas are priced at a little over $10o USD.