Arriving soon: Saudi Arabia’s tourism ambition

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SOURCE: Arabian Business

Time: March 16, 2018

The kingdom’s attempt to diversify its economy heralds the beginning of the end of both the country’s – and the region’s – dependence on fossil fuels.

A new era beckons that is anchored in development projects grander than any Gulf plans that came before it.

Top of that list is a 26,000 sq km, $500bn economic city, Neom, on its western edge, powered by clean energy, that will connect both Egypt and Jordan with Saudi; a sovereign wealth fund that aims to control $2tr in cash and assets both foreign and domestic; and the IPO of a five percent stake in the crown jewel of its oil industry, Saudi Aramco.

But before any of that comes to pass, Saudi Arabia plans to become a world-class tourist destination.

Easing access

Even at the turn of the decade, becoming a tourist hotspot is a future hardly anyone would have conceived for Saudi Arabia. Historically, visa restrictions and a lack of openness to visitors, especially unmarried women, are among the factors that have hindered Saudi Arabia’s prospects as a tourism destination.

But from April 1, according to Conde Nast Traveller, travel agencies and tour operators expect the country to start easing rules toward issuing 30-day general tourist visas to those who wish to explore the kingdom’s hidden treasures. This is said to include single women, who will now be able to travel without a male guardian.

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