Saudi Arabia will announce regulations related to its newly-launched tourist visas at the end of first quarter this year, the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage (SCTH) has said.

The commission confirmed to Zawya in a statement sent by email that regulations will be issued once they have been approved by its board of directors.

SCTH also refuted media reports about the nationalities that can apply for tourist visas, or the conditions attached to them, stating that these were mere speculation or based on deliberations that have not yet been finalised by the commission.

The commission added that preparations for launching tourist visas are underway, in coordination with the Ministry of Interior as well as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. It said that final deliberations were currently being completed with its partners.

The statement, sent in Arabic, also said the commission was ensuring the readiness of all parties concerned, as well as completing a system of tourism services and developing marketing packages.

In the first phase, visas will be issued only to groups travelling through accredited tour operators, using an electronic system that has been developed after studying international best practices, according to the statement.

The commission added that the kingdom's National Transformation Program 2020 (NTP) has identified the tourist visa as a key initiative with high economic returns, and a direct impact on raising the level of services.

The initial version of the NTP published in June 2016 had set a target of increasing the number of tourists to 81.9 million people by 2020 from a baseline of 64.5 million when it was published.

 In November last year, a senior Saudi official said that the kingdom will start issuing tourist visas to foreigners in 2018. (Read more here).

“The targets are people who want to come and literally experience this country, and really the grandness of this country,” Prince Sultan bin Salman bin Abdulaziz, head of the SCTH told CNN in November.

(Reporting by Nada Al Rifai; Editing by Michael Fahy)


© ZAWYA 2018