Saudi Arabia, which had begun granting tourist visas to all wishing to visit the Kingdom's regions from different parts of the world recently, have announced further relaxations to the rules governing the issuance of the tourist visa.
The earlier stipulation was that tourist visas could be obtained from the Saudi missions in their countries, but had allowed the additional facilities of getting the e-visa to 49 nationalities from Europe, Asia and America, reports Saudi Gazette.
In addition nationals from these 49 countries could avail the facility of getting a visa on arrival. On Friday, Saudi Arabia said nationals of other countries too could use the online facility and get a visa on arrival if they fulfill one condition.
These nationals should hold a commercial or a tourist visa issued by the USA or the UK or countries granting Schengen visas.
The Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage (SCTH) had announced the launch of the tourist visa while simultaneously marking the World Tourism Day.
According to the SCTH, tourist visas will be issued on a one-year, multiple-entry basis, allowing tourists to spend up to 90 days in the country.
It had earlier restricted the visas to be issued manually via the Kingdom's missions and electronically without preconditions (e-visas) or upon arrival in the Kingdom during the admissions process (visa on arrival) for 49 nationalities from Europe, Asia and America.
The new tourist visa allows for those wishing to visit the Kingdom to discover its landmarks any time throughout the year.
Among the most important features of the Saudi tourist visa, is that the visa holder can benefit from it in performing Umrah.
In addition, a male relative need not accompany women, except during the Haj season, and there is no need for a sponsor to visit the Kingdom, as required for work visas.
Previously, the work visit and Haj visas were the main non-immigrant visa options for travel to the Kingdom.
The granting of tourist visas comes within the Kingdom's plan to create one million jobs and reach 100 million tourists by the year 2030.
The new tourist visa program marks a significant transformation for the Kingdom and is in line with Vision 2030, its flagship initiative to diversify its economy and reduce its dependence on oil revenue.
The ambassador of the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) Gerald Lawless said that the Saudi decision would raise the Kingdom's Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by 3 to 4 percent because the world tourism market is growing at a rate exceeding 5 percent annually.
The announcement of the Saudi tourist visa, also witnessed the signing of contracts in the fields of real estate, food, utilities and services, worth over SR100 billion.
The representative of the Triple Five Group conglomerate Christos Marafatsos said the announcement of the Saudi tourist visa is important news for tourism companies in the world. The Saudi market provides a big opportunity and opening it to 49 nationalities makes the Saudi market one of the best destinations.