Saudi Arabia on Friday announced that it will offer tourist visas for the first time, opening up the ultra-conservative kingdom to holidaymakers as part of a push to diversify its economy away from oil.
The decision has been taken to give a kickstart to the tourism industry, as it is the centrepiece of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s Vision 2030 reform programme to prepare the biggest Arab economy for a post-oil era.
The major announcement comes just two weeks after devastating attacks on Saudi Arabia’s oil infrastructure blamed by Washington on Iran which roiled global energy markets.
“Opening Saudi Arabia to international tourists is a historic moment for our country,” tourism chief Ahmed al-Khateeb said in a statement.
Saudi Arabia will open applications for online tourist visas to citizens of 49 countries on Saturday.