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Saudi Arabia Opens Kingdom to Foreign Tourists

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Spent 202 days in one stretch in SA and that was certainly enough for me.


Saudi Arabia Opens Kingdom to Foreign Tourists

Introduction of tourism visas comes at a moment of economic fragility for the kingdom



JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia—Saudi Arabia is opening the ultraconservative kingdom to tourists for the first time, easing restrictions for foreign visitors as part of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s initiative to diversify the oil-dependent economy.

Visas had been restricted to Muslim pilgrims and business and diplomatic visitors, but on Friday the kingdom said its new online visa portal would be open to visitors from 49 countries, including the U.S. and major European and Asian countries.

“Opening Saudi Arabia to international tourists is a historic moment for our country,” said Ahmad al-Khateeb, chairman of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage.

The change to visa rules comes two weeks after debilitating attacks on Saudi oil facilities, for which Riyadh and U.S. officials blamed rival Iran, raising fears of a broader conflict in the region. Tehran denied involvement. The drone and missile strikes took out half of Saudi Arabia’s crude production and raised questions about security in the kingdom, a top military spender.

It also comes days ahead of the first anniversary of journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s murder by Saudi government agents, an incident that sparked widespread international criticism of the kingdom. Mr. Khashoggi, a critic of the Saudi leadership, was brutally killed inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. A Central Intelligence Agency assessment concluded last year that Prince Mohammed ordered the killing. Riyadh has denied the crown prince’s involvement.

The murder, which shattered the crown prince’s global image, slowed foreign investment in the kingdom and complicated Prince Mohammed’s plans to overhaul the Saudi economy to make it less dependent on oil.

The introduction of tourism visas comes at a moment of economic fragility for Saudi Arabia, as it struggles to jump-start non-oil industries.

Read more.



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Of all the 42+ countries I've visited..  Saudi was where I felt the LEAST welcome.  Gonna be hard to make it a tourist haven..  unless you are there for the haj.. or sunbathing while fully dressed.

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I've spent about 5 years in total in KSA, and thoroughly enjoyed it.

OK, i was working so occupied, but would think there's certainly enough of interest for the typical 2 or 3 week tourist visit. I spent about 18 months in hotels and the rest in self contained accommodation. 12 months of that in a hotel with a beach, ok to sunbath if that's your thing, though a bit inadvisable under the Saudi sun. I'd guess most tourists would stay at decent hotels with a private beach or a pool. Maybe have organised day trips.  I'm not sure at the moment if the hotel and transport infrastructure lends itself to the independent backpacker type of tourist, and for them it could prove expensive anyway.

Many countries have their customs, and dressing conservatively when out and about in public in KSA is very sensible and I'm sure would be strongly advised by their government , travel advisories, and tourist organisations.

I reckon they'd have to step up hotel construction, as the amount of expat workers and business visitors mean that hotels often seem to be quite full.

I loved the food. Much as I enjoy a drink (too much!), i didn't miss it when I was there, and happily settled for the non-alcoholic Holstein.

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