An Update On Saudi Arabia’s New Tourist Visas

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Call me crazy, but when I woke up this morning, the first thing I thought to myself is “it’s April 1… has Saudi Arabia starting issuing tourist visas yet?!” No, that’s not an April Fools’ joke.

Several months ago Saudi Arabia revealed that for the first time ever they’d begin issuing tourist visas. While the timeline wasn’t initially clear, this was part of Saudi Arabia’s plan to welcome 30 million visitors per year by 2030 (up from 18 million in 2016, a vast majority of which were visitors on a pilgrimage). Furthermore, they hope that by 2020 their tourism spend will hit $47 billion per year. This is part of their attempt to introduce a more “open, moderate Islam,” with some restrictions being relaxed.

Then early last month Prince Sultan bin Salman, head of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage, announced that Saudi Arabia would start issuing tourist visas as of April 1, 2018. Not only will it finally be possible to visit Saudi Arabia, but these visas will be issued electronically, which means the process of obtaining a tourist visa should be pretty easy.