RIYADH: Tourism visa applications to Saudi Arabia have boomed since the kingdom announced it was opening its doors to more foreign visitors in September.
The country revealed its £98 e-visa system was open for citizens of 49 countries on September 27th – and some 77,000 applications were processed in the first month.
That is according to Majed Alghanim, segment director of tourism at the Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority, who was speaking at World Travel Market in London.
Despite still reeling from the fallout of the assassination of Jamal Khashoggi in October last year and continued criticism over its human rights record, the country has been pressing on with its ambitious Vision 2030 tourism strategy that is targeting 100 million visitors a year by 2030.
Whether Saudi’s ambitious tourism plans are successful remains to be seen.
The recent e-visa introduction was accompanied by a relaxation of rules allowing non-married visiting couples to share hotel rooms, and rumours abound of a change in laws to allow foreign visitors to drink alcohol in resorts.
The status of whether gay travellers will be welcomed though remains unresolved, while the Foreign & Commonwealth Office continues to strike a note of caution in its travel advice thanks to the ongoing border dispute with Yemen.