Demand for international routes has been “surprisingly strong” given the circumstances, says Air Canada, but if Canada doesn’t reciprocate global entry privileges soon, we could see more ...
RIYADH — Saudi Arabia is opening its doors to foreign tourists with the historic announcement that it has launched a new tourist visa for citizens of 49 countries, including Canada.
Applications for the visa can now be made at Saudi Embassies and Consulates around the world. Eligible tourists will also be able to apply for an e-visa online, or get a visa on arrival in Saudi Arabia. A dedicated online portal at visitsaudi.com has been launched and electronic kiosks are available at airports.
The new visa allows for a stay of up to three months per entry, with visitors able to spend up to 90 days a year in Saudi Arabia. It is valid for one year and allows for multiple entries.
To cost of applying for an e-visa or a visa on arrival is SAR 440 plus VAT (approximately Can$160).
The country intends to extend the e-visa scheme to other countries in due course.
This new initiative will help the destination achieve its goal of 100 million international and domestic overnight visits a year by 2030. By then, the aim is for tourism to contribute up to 10% of the country’s GDP, compared to just 3% today.
How the destination hopes to achieve this will be two-fold. The first phase of ‘Vision 2030’, from 2019 to 2022, will focus on attracting first-time visitors to “discover Saudi”. The second phase of the program, from 2022 onwards, will focus on enticing visitors to “experience Saudi”.
As part of phase one, over 20 new tourist sites will be developed, while in phase two, the full development of Saudis giga projects will come on stream, including NEOM, Amaala, the Red Sea Project, Al-Ula, Qiddiyah and Ad-Diriyah.
On what the new visa will mean to overall tourism, Ahmad Al-Khateeb, Chairman of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Heritage, said: “Tonight we make history. For the first time, we are opening our country to tourists from all over the world. To those thinking of visiting Saudi Arabia, you won’t find a warmer welcome anywhere in the world, and you won’t find a people prouder to share the riches of their land with you.”