Saudi Arabia has launched its e-tourist visa. In the first phase, citizens of 49 countries will be able to get an electronic visa online or upon arrival in the kingdom.

It was reported in early September that the kingdom would begin issuing visas to tourists for a fee of SR440 ($117).

According to the national tourism strategy, the kingdom aims to receive 100 million visits a year by 2030, compared to about 41 million at present.

If this 2030 target is achieved, it would put the kingdom among the top five countries receiving foreign tourists from all over the world, with revenues of up to 10 per cent of gross national income rather than the current 3 per cent. Hitting the target would also mean the number of jobs in the tourism sector would reach 1.6 million compared with just 600,000 jobs today.

The move to introduce tourist visas is the latest in a series of reforms being undertaken in the kingdom as it seeks to diversify its economy away from its dependence on oil.

Led by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the Saudi Vision 2030 economic reform programme sets out a number of ways in which the kingdom will diversify its sources of revenue. Various social reforms have been introduced over the past 12 months, ranging from removing restrictions on women driving and travelling without a guardian to allowing concerts, as Riyadh seeks to boost foreign investment.

The tourism sector is a key area of focus in Saudi Arabia’s economic diversification strategy, with a number of major projects planned along the Red Sea coast to attract visitors. These include the $500bn Neom development, being spearheaded by the Public Investment Fund (PIF), and the Red Sea Project, being overseen by The Red Sea Development Company (TRSDC).

Included in MEED’s Saudi Arabia special report: