The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s Council of Ministers recently has approved the creation of a residency permit scheme for qualified international expatriates that is expected to support the attraction of leading global entrepreneurs, innovators and investors, according to the Saudi Press Agency.
The launch of the program also follows the introduction of specialized visas for events such as Formula E motor races, the Winter at Tantora Festival in Al Ula and the Saudi International Golf Tournament.
There are also plans to introduce the Kingdom’s first tourism visa, which will play a significant role to enhance Saudi Arabia’s global profile as a "leading travel destination", the agency revealed.
Speaking exclusively to Hotelier Middle East, senior consultant at TRI, Philippe Vercruysse said that In terms of tourism related impact, the improved business environment could potentially help marginally increase visitor traffic and hotel demand.
“But more importantly, in the medium-to-long term, this can be expected to help grow foreign investment in the Kingdom, which is likely to include, among others, tourism related investments,” he said.
However, Vercruysse said that “the big leap will happen with the launch of tourist visas, which is expected to happen in the short to medium term. At present, the country only issues tourist visas for specific events, albeit it did run a pilot programme between 2006 and 2010, allowing 25,000 tourist visas per year for visitors interested to see Saudi Arabia's ancient archaeological sites.”
Speaking about the approval, Eng. Ibrahim Al Omar, governor of the Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority (SAGIA), said: “Our aim is to attract innovators from across the world to live and work in Saudi Arabia – and this reform will play a significant role in doing so. These investors and entrepreneurs will help to drive the private sector growth, which is needed to realize the ambitious goals set out in Saudi Vision 2030.”
Saudi Arabia is undergoing a series of social and economic reforms that aim at realizing the Kingdom’s economic potential under Vision 2030. Following these initiatives, the World Bank ranked Saudi Arabia as the 4th largest reformer within the G20 and noted improvement across four key pillars in its latest Doing Business report.