Thousands of tourists flew to Saudi Arabia in the first 10 days of visa launch
Most of the travelers came from China.
October 9th, 9:18 amOctober 9th, 9:22 amMariam Nabbout
Saudi Arabia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs revealed that over 24,000 people visited the kingdom in the first 10 days after the electronic tourist visa was launched.
In a statement published on Monday, the ministry also revealed the countries where the tourists arrived from. Turns out, most of the travelers to Saudi Arabia came from China. Visitors from the UK and the U.S. came in second and third place respectively. France, Germany, Canada, Malaysia, Russia, Australia and Kazakhstan were also among the "top 10 countries" list.
The new travel document system, which was issued late last month, allows tourists from 49 countries to enter the country.
The new visa makes it easier for Muslims to visit the kingdom to perform Umrah without needing a sponsor.
The scheme does not only benefit pilgrims. It also plays to the advantage of individuals who are curious to explore Saudi Arabia's touristic side or anyone interested in attending seasonal concerts and sporting events.
It also allows all successful applicants to enter the kingdom multiple times within a 12-month period on condition that each visit doesn't exceed a period of 3 months.
Boosting the kingdom's tourism sector
For months, the country has been working on transforming its tourism sector into a revenue-generating industry.
Before announcing the new tourist visa regulations, the kingdom announced that old rules – that still apply to nationals in the country – will no longer affect tourists. For example, female tourists will not need to wear abayas; unmarried foreign couples are now also allowed to share a hotel room.
These newly announced decisions come as part of a visa scheme that's been in the making for quite some time. The plan aims to transform Saudi Arabia into a tourism hotspot, a key goal under Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's Vision 2030.
So far, local tourism plans have worked pretty well
In recent weeks, the Chief Executive of the World Travel and Tourism Council, Gloria Guevara, revealed that the tourism sector is set to account for 5 percent of the country's GDP by 2021.
Earlier this year, there was an increase in the number of travelers entering Saudi Arabia this year. In August, hotels located in Saudi Arabia's Jeddah were expected to record their highest occupancy rate in three years based on preliminary date revealing that there was a significant increase in the city's hotel occupancy in July.
Traveling to Saudi Arabia was previously restricted to business-related purposes or religious ones but that's no longer the case. In fact, the kingdom has been slowly inviting tourists to enjoy the many activities, summer festivals, sporting events, and concerts that it's been hosting.
The kingdom is currently working on developing its Red Sea coast into a luxury beach destination governed by "independent laws." The project aims at transforming Saudi Arabia's Red Sea coastline into a global tourism hotspot, with luxury hotels and pristine beaches.