Saudi Arabia will begin issuing tourist visas on 27 September, Saudi daily Okaz reported on Tuesday, as the kingdom looks to diversify its economy away from a reliance on oil and gas. Tourists from 51 countries will be able to obtain a 90-day visa for a fee of 440 riyals ($117) and will reportedly be able to apply for the visas online or upon arrival. The long-awaited move is part of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s loosening of the kingdom’s strict laws as he attempts to portray the country as open to the world. Under his leadership, the kingdom has undertaken an ambitious programme of economic reform in a bid to remedy its dependency on oil revenues.
The most costly aspect of the flagship plan, dubbed Vision 2030, projects is Neom – a futuristic megacity which is estimated to cost $500 billion. The city will be the centerpiece of the project – a city packed with factories, tech companies and resorts to make sure Saudis spend their money domestically rather than abroad. Prince Mohammed is also trying to lure international giants such as Amazon and Tesla to the city with incentives including free energy and subsidised labour. The city will be built on Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea coast in the northwestern Tabuk province, close to the kingdom’s borders with Egypt and Jordan. It will also reportedly include the formerly Egyptian Tiran and Sanafir islands, as well as a southern portion of Egypt’s Sinai peninsula.
Source: The New Arab