25-11-2017 09:00 AM | Lathika Saju | My Indian Dream
Saudi Arabia will issue tourist visas to foreigners next year
In an attempt to find new sources of revenue to diversify its economy, Saudi Arabia plans to issue tourist visas to foreigners next year.This was revealed in an interview by Prince Sultan bin Salman bin Abdulaziz who is the head of the Saudi Commission of Tourism and Natural Heritage.
Currently, the only foreigners allowed in Saudi Arabia are resident workers and their dependents, business travellers, and Muslim pilgrims who are given special visas to travel to holy sites.
The Prince said that soon anyone who wishes to come and literally experience the country will be welcome. He said that visas will hopefully be issued by 2018. The government plans to use online technology to make applying for visas easy.
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the 32-year-old heir to the throne is exploring new avenues to wean his country off its dependency on oil exports. This involves loosening its ultra-strict social restrictions, scaling back the role of religious morality police and announcing plans to allowing women to drive next year.
The attempts to increase the number of tourists in Saudi Arabia had been going on for many years, but the idea was shunned by conservative opinion. However, this year, the government is determined to push through the change partly because of financial pressures. It hopes to cover a state budget deficit caused by low oil prices by earning billions of dollars through tourism.