Latest News

Back to Latest News back

 

Saudi Arabia looks to open up to non-Muslim international tourists

Saudi Arabia looks to open up to non-Muslim international tourists
September 27, 2019

The Saudi Arabian Government has announced that it will open its doors to non-Muslim international tourists for the first time as part of a broader push to cut its economic dependence on oil.

The kingdom, which historically attracts millions of Muslim tourists to the Haj pilgrimage in the city of Mecca each year, announced today that it will launch a visa regime for 49 countries and relax strict dress codes for female visitors.

With visas until now having been largely been restricted to pilgrims, business people and expatriate workers, Saudi Arabian Tourism Minister Ahmad al-Khateeb described the change as a "historic moment" for the country, advising "visitors will be surprised ... by the treasures we have to share - five UNESCO World Heritage Sites, a vibrant local culture and breathtaking natural beauty.”

Looking for tourism to rise from 3% to 10% of gross domestic product by 2030, Saudi Arabia is also hoping to secure foreign investment in the tourism industry – particularly for a series of ‘giga’ projects it is developing.

Foreign women visitors will not be required to wear the body-covering abaya robe required to be worn in public by Saudi women, but must still maintain modest dress. There will also be no restrictions on unaccompanied women visiting the country.

Commenting on this, Minister al-Khateeb stated “we have a culture. We believe our friends and our guests will respect the culture, but definitely it is modest and it will be very clear.”

Non-Muslims will still not be allowed to visit the holy cities of Mecca and Medina and the ban on alcohol will be maintained.

The moves to open up tourism is central to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's wider economic reform programme that aims to reduce the kingdom's focus on oil.

Under the plan, Saudi Arabia wants to increase international and domestic visits to 100 million a year by 2030. The Government expects to create one million tourism jobs.

In the first phase of the program, from 2019 to 2022, the focus will be on attracting first-time visitors to "discover Saudi".

The second phase of the program, from 2022 onwards, will focus on enticing visitors to "experience Saudi".

As part of phase one, over 20 new tourist sites will be developed, dramatically expanding choice and opportunity for visitors to discover the country's hidden treasures.

As part of phase two, the full development of Saudi's giga projects will come on stream, including NEOM, Amaala, the Red Sea Project, Al-Ula, Qiddiyah and Ad-Diriyah.

However, the change push comes as the kingdom faces a tarnished international image amid criticism of its human rights record following last year's murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, and a recent crackdown on women's rights activists.

In 2017 Saudi Arabia announced a massive tourism development project that will turn 50 islands and other sites on the Red Sea into luxury resorts.

Last year construction began on Qiddiya 'entertainment city' near Riyadh, which is to include high-end theme parks, motor sport facilities and a safari area.

Images: The Qasr al-Farid tomb in Madain Saleh is a Unesco World Heritage site (top), the planned Royal Arts Complex in Riyadh (middle) and the planned Qiddiyah giga project (below).

Related Articles

8th August 2019 - Qiddiya giga-project reveals new master plan video

23rd July 2019 - Saudi Arabia hosts first International Beach Sports Tournaments at NEOM giga-project site

11th July 2019 - Backlash sees Nicki Minaj pull out of Saudi Arabia festival

1st July 2019 - Masterplan revealed for Saudi Arabia’s entertainment and sport city giga-project

16th October 2018 - Bounce to open first female-only trampoline park in Saudi Arabia

6th April 2018 - Six Flags announces plans for first Saudi Arabia theme park to open by 2022

1st November 2017 - Sir Richard Branson to turn 50 Saudi Arabian islands into luxury tourism destinations

11th October 2017 - Saudi Arabia reveals US$2.7 billion plan to expand entertainment sector

25th October 2016 - Hajj pilgrimage to boost Saudi Arabian tourism to over 20 million visitors by 2020

7th July 2014 - Saudi Arabia announces plans to build 11 stadia

28th February 2013 - Saudi Arabia earns $16.5 billion from religious tourism

25th February 2010 - Saudi Arabia to build $13 billion ‘tourist city’ on Gulf coast


Asking a small favour
We hope that you value the news that we publish so while you're here can we ask for your support?

The news we publish at www.ausleisure.com.au is independent, credible (we hope) and free for you to access, with no pay walls and no annoying pop-up ads.

However, as an independent publisher, can we ask for you to support us by subscribing to the printed Australasian Leisure Management magazine - if you don't already do so.

Published bi-monthly since 1997, the printed Australasian Leisure Management differs from this website in that it publishes longer, in-depth and analytical features covering aquatics, attractions, entertainment, events, fitness, parks, recreation, sport, tourism and venues management.

Subscriptions cost just $90 a year.

Click here to subscribe.

 

supplier directory

The Complete Guide to Leisure Industry Products & Services.

See the directory see all

Abel Sports

INTRODUCTION Abel Sports is Australia’s leading manufacturer and suppliers of Goal Posts, sports ground safety netting systems and coaches boxes for Stadiums ,Sports Clubs, Councils and…

read more

Recreation / Sport / Venues

 
 

BODY BIKE AUSTRALIA

BODY BIKE® International is a leading manufacturer of indoor bikes with a 20-year track record of creating the best indoor bikes. Stay connected with Body Bike Australia…

read more

Fitness / Recreation / Sport / Technology / Wellness

 
 

AUSTRALIAN WATERSLIDES AND LEISURE

A leading designer and manufacturer of innovative waterslides and attractions, Australian Waterslides and Leisure (AWL) is also able to advise clients in the areas of concept and design, feasibility…

read more

Aquatics / Attractions / Play / Waterparks

 
 

Jonas Leisure

JonasLeisure offers a complete range of leading leisure and recreation software brands – envibe, Centaman, Gladstone Health & Leisure, The Retention People, Nutrition Complete and…

read more

Aquatics / Billing / Fitness / Recreation / Sport

 
 

Enta Australasia

As of the 1st July 2018, Enta Australasia Pty Ltd/Best Union has been rebranded as VIVATICKET Pty Ltd.  Click here to view the VIVATICKET Pty Ltd listing.  19th July 2018 - ENTA…

read more

Technology / Ticketing / Venues

 
 

SimplySwim

    SimplySwim is a school management solution that helps swimming school owners and managers optimize operations by automating functions such as managing class schedules, billing and…

read more

Aquatics / Education / Recreation / Safety / Technology

 
 

Otium Planning Group

Otium Planning Group is a contemporary sport and leisure consultancy providing services in planning, facility development, management and funding for the sport, recreation and leisure industries…

read more

Aquatics / Consultants / Recreation / Sport / Venues

 
 

Summit Fitness

Summit Fitness Equipment is now part of NovoFit - see www.ausleisure.com.au/suppliers/novofit/

read more

Fitness / Recreation / Technology / Wellness

 
 
 
 

get listed with our suppliers directory

Get your business noticed in our targeted directory. Viewed by 10,000 industry professionals per week!

list your business