Saudi Arabia will offer tourist visas for the first time to citizens of 49 countries as a mean to diversify its economy which depends mainly on oil.
“Opening Saudi Arabia to international tourists is a historic moment for our country,” Ahmed al-Khateeb the minister of Tourism stated.
“Visitors will be surprised… by the treasures, we have to share — five UNESCO World Heritage Sites, a vibrant local culture and breath-taking natural beauty.”
So far, visas were restricted to business travellers, expatriate worker and pilgrims.
The country will go easy on the dress code of female tourists. They will not be required to wear the abaya dress covering the body which is mandatory for Saudi women, however they will still be required to wear “modest clothing”.
The ban on alcoholic beverages will nonetheless be maintained and access to the holy cities of Mecca and Medina will be restricted. “We have a culture. We believe our friends and our guests will respect the culture, but definitely it is modest and it will be very clear,” explained the Minister of Tourism.
The kingdom is targeting an annual visit of 100 million tourists, both domestic and international, by 2030.