New Delhi: Weeks after Saudi Arabia’s oil infrastructure faces a devastating drone attack, the country has announced to open its doors to international tourism in an attempt to diversify its economy from oil. This is a part of Crown prince Mohammed bin Salman’s Vision 2030 programme, according to agency reports.
“Opening Saudi Arabia to international tourists is a historic moment for our country,” tourism chief Ahmed al-Khateeb said in a statement, as quoted by AFP.
Currently, visas are only restricted to expat workers, their dependents and Muslim pilgrims travelling to holy sites in Mecca and Medina. From last year, the kingdom began issuing visas to visitors attending sporting and cultural events.
“Visitors will be surprised… by the treasures we have to share — five UNESCO World Heritage Sites, vibrant local culture and breathtaking natural beauty.”
Saudi Arabia will open applications for online tourist visas to citizens of 49 countries on Saturday, a report said.
The tourism chief said that the kingdom will also ease its strict dress code for foreign women. Tourists will be allowed to move without wearing the body-shrouding abaya robe that is still mandatory for Saudi women.
Modest clothing will be advised.
It is yet to assessed whether Saudi Arabia, which forbids alcohol, will become a tourist attraction. In 2017, the country allowed its women to drive cars.
Of late, Saudi Arabia has been a target of international criticism for its human rights violation, the gruesome murder of Jamal Khashoggi etc. Tourism may invite good press for the country, apart from jobs and investments, according to experts.
These are the four Unesco world heritage sites:
1. Al-Hajir Archaological Site: This is an archaeological site which dates back to the pre-Islamic times. This is the largest conserved site for the Nabataean civilization that is located south of Petra, Jordan
2. At-Turaid District of Ad-Dir’iyaah: Founded in the 15th century, this was the first capital of the country.
3. Historic Jeddah: The Old Jeddah Wall was built to protect the city from external attacks and aggressors
4. Rock Art of the Hail Region: The site consists of pietroglyphs rock art that was carved using stone hammers that were made by the earlier settlers in the area