The Saudi Arabian government has approved plans to begin issuing tourist visas, according to local media reports. The visas will be rolled out in different stages and will only be issued to visitors using authorised tour operators, according to a report in Saudi newspaper Al Watan.
Jamal Al-Fakhri, a member of Saudi Arabia’s Shoura Council and of the Tabuk Tourism Development Council’s executive committee said that he hoped that the Tabuk region – in the northwest of Saudi Arabia – would become a “destination for tourists in the region”, adding that tourism projects would “further diversity job opportunities.
“There are many tour guides who are multilingual and ready to work in the field after meeting the requirements set by the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage (SCTH),” he added.
Rustam Al-Kubaisi, head of the SCTH branch in the southern city of Jizan, pointed to the Asir development project, Taif’s Souk Okaz and the Farasan islands as examples of potentially popular tourism destinations in the kingdom.
“The SCTH has been conducting tourism training workshops for the youth on topics including establishing small tourism projects and methods for increasing safety in tourism establishments,” he said. “This is in addition to raising awareness about the importance of relics, urban heritage and historical buildings.”
In August 2017, the Saudi government announced plans to convert 34,000 square kilometres of islands near the Red Sea into a luxury tourism destination, with Virgin Airlines founder Richard Branson as among first investors. The project is expected to generate as many as 35,000 jobs.
Saudi Arabia recently reported declines in occupancy, ADR, and RevPAR in Q3 2017; however, showing an increase in supply, along with Madinah and Jeddah showing positive numbers.