The Kingdom’s Vision 2030 aims to enforce an abundant amount of efforts and investments into the tourism sector. This section highlights the future aspirations and opportunities of tourism by taking you through the Kingdom’s tourism strategy, the newly implemented steps to issue a tourist visa, which also highlights the list of eligible countries, insight into the Tourism Development Fund, the reasons behind the Kingdom’s focus on tourism investment and the National Tourism Monitoring Platform. This section will also provide informative content on obtaining a tourism license, the main tourist attractions in each of the Kingdom’s regions, the recent strategy launched by the Human Capital Development Agency at the Ministry of Tourism for graduates, job seekers, workers in the tourism sector, entrepreneurs and business owners and its numerous qualifying programs.
The Kingdom is an important center in the Arab and Islamic world due to the existence of the Two Holy Mosques and the existence of history, ancient civilizations, ancient museums and cultural heritage that presents the image of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia from its ancient times to nowadays to all countries of the world.
The Kingdom also abounds of a diversity of landforms, delightful views, and extended beaches, which consider to be an ideal destination for tourists, so the Kingdom, represented by the Ministry of Tourism, has worked to develop tourism and raise the rate of investment in it, in addition to developing the manpower working in it and attracting visitors and tourists from outside the Kingdom in accordance with the objectives of the National Tourism Strategy and the 2030 vision of Saudi Arabia.
Tourism Strategy in Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia has outlined its tourism aspirations to align with the 2030 vision:
- Raise the contribution of the tourism sector to the domestic product to more than 10%.
- Provide one million additional job opportunities.
- Attract 100 million annual visits by 2030.
New Tourism Regulations
The transit visa allows individuals to pass through the Kingdom and is applicable for short stays of over 12 hours. It is available to applicants of any nationality, and it can be obtained by using the Enjaz e-service visa platform.
Personal Visit Visa
The personal visit visa allows individuals who have no business connections or family relationship with the originator to visit the Kingdom.
Medical Treatment Visa
The medical treatment visa enables applicants to apply for a visit to the Kingdom for the purpose of treatment.
The Umrah visa enables beneficiaries from outside the Kingdom to request an Umrah visa and review the application as well as it allows Saudi diplomatic missions abroad to issue online Umrah visas.
Business Visit Visa
The business visit visa enables companies or institutions within the Kingdom to request a visit to one or more persons according to specific professional qualifications bound by business relations with the company extended the invitation.
The residence visa enables beneficiaries the ability to enter their companions into the Kingdom.
Work Visit Visa
The work visit visa enables applicants the approval of two categories of visit visas, the "Individual" visits or the "Sectors and Organizations" visits.
For more visa types click here. Also, You can find the different visa applications to fit the purpose of your visit on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Visa Services Platform.
Issuing a Tourist Visa
In the last quarter of 2019, Saudi Arabia began receiving visitors and tourists from outside the Kingdom with a valid entry visa for a full year, allowing them to stay inside the Kingdom for a maximum of 90 continuous days. In turn, this will work to communicate the Kingdom's history, heritage and authentic Arab customs to different cultures and countries.
Countries Eligible for Visa
Tourists from 49 countries can obtain a tourist visa, which are:
- European countries.
- Asian countries.
- American countries.
- Countries of Oceania.
Launched the Tourist Visas:
Issued more than 440,000 visas by March 2020.
Issuing a Tourist Visa
Tourists from eligible countries:
- Applying from the website before travelling: Request a visa.
- When arriving to Saudi Arabia, through the visa offices in the Immigration Department.
Tourists from non-eligible countries:
- Going to the Saudi representations abroad to obtain a visa.
- For those holding a visa for the United States, United Kingdom or Schengen countries, they can apply for a visa upon arrival.
Tourism Investment in Saudi Arabia
Tourism Development Fund
The Tourism Development Fund was launched to encourage tourism investments in Saudi Arabia and open doors for cooperation with investors directly by providing support in all matters related to tourism projects leading to the development of the sector in the Kingdom, such as restaurants, hotels, and other tourist destinations.
Financial Solutions Provided by the Fund
- Supporting the private sector by granting investment loans and investing in projects by owning shares of the project, and providing guarantees on some other projects.
- Supporting distinguished and promising projects by providing appropriate solutions for their implementation, and coordinating with the concerned government agencies to provide the project needs such as lands.
Why is Saudi Arabia Focusing on Tourism Investment?
- A bridge for cultural communication between Saudi Arabia and the world.
- Produce investment opportunities for local and foreign investors.
- The tourism sector is one of the fastest growing in the world.
National Tourism Monitoring Platform
This platform was launched to monitor the performance of accommodation facilities and tourism movement in Saudi Arabia, and to be a center for collecting statistics and data related to the tourism sector. To join as a service provider or see the National Tourism Monitoring Platform.
In an effort to achieve an integrated digital transformation of e-government procedures, and to facilitate service providers and applicants, the Ministry of Tourism provides a number of electronic services related to tourism licenses.
- Tourist travel agencies.
- Tour operators.
- Tourist guides.
- Tourist accommodation.
- Reservation offices for accommodation units.
The Ministry has also published an integrated guide for those wishing to obtain a license for any of the previous activities and benefit from them (The User's Guide).
Tourist Attractions in Saudi Arabia
Tourism in Riyadh
- Masmak Palace: One of Riyadh's most prominent historical monuments is the foundation point for the unification of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. the word means a high, strong, and thick building. One of the most important features is the gate of the Fortress, Diwaniyah, mosque, well, and towers. Visitors can also visit to feel the heritage of the past and explore Saudi Arabia's heritage.
Among the most important features of Al-Masmak are the Palace Gate, the Diwaniyah, the Mosque, the Well, the Towers.
- The National Museum: is next to King Abdul Aziz Palace (Al-Murabba). This museum displays artifacts, models, films, sound effects, and other historical legacies of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The Ministry of Culture gives the opportunity to those who are unable to visit the museum to explore the museum through a virtual tour, revealing the details of the museum and its most prominent items through the link.
- Diriyah Gate: The largest historical and cultural project in the world and one of the most recent projects in the Kingdom to attract future tourists from all over the world. The official website of the Al-Direya Gate Development Authority provides the time and details of the events taking place in this historic area.
- Kingdom Tower: It has shopping center, and the Four Seasons Hotel as a suitable place to stay at the top of the Kingdom Tower.
- Al Faisaliah Tower: One of the most famous buildings and a convenient place to shop and stay at the luxurious Al Faisaliah Hotel.
- Riyadh Front: a destination worth trying out, including a list of the best restaurants, some shops, a movie theater, and more. You can find out more about the facilities of the Riyadh Front from here.
Tourism in Jeddah
- Jeddah Waterfront: is going through different development phases, facilitated with services and elements suitable for all groups and ages, and is considered the first destination for tourists and visitors to Jeddah; for being the world's modern waterfront, including entertainment venues, restaurants and walking trails, for more details.
- Mersal Village: One of the world's most popular leisure destinations, with restaurants, cafes, and games for the young and old.
- King Fahd's Fountain: The highest fountain in the world, located in front of the shores of Jeddah City, is a landmark of great historical value, and it was a gift to Jeddah from King Fahd bin Abdel Aziz Al Saud, who ruled the country from 1982 to 2005. The construction took four years, from 1980 to 1983, and when it opened in 1985 it became one of the city's main tourist attractions. The fountain is located opposite Jeddah's seafront and uses seawater instead of fresh water to release its famous water. To learn more about the fountain from here.
- The Floating Mosque: A local landmark known for its white pillars on the sea, and a glittering turquoise dome under the sun, where visitors, especially pilgrims and pilgrims, wander through the elegance and design of its marble, built in 1985 over a water area, with bases planted under the sea surface, to learn more about its architectural beauty through the link.
Tourism in Makkah
- The Grand Mosque: the most important religious and tourist destination in the world, in which the greatest rituals of religion are performed and there are Islamic sanctities, the most prominent of which is the Holy Kaaba.
- Okaz City: The Kingdom has developed Okaz, one of the most famous markets in the pre-Islamic era and a tourist and cultural destination for visitors. Among the most prominent results of this project is the establishment of training workshops in 9 different courses and certified certificates for more than 1700 young men and girls. The cultural program for Okaz Market was held in the 2019 Taif season, with an area of 10 million square meters, with more than 15 thousand seasonal jobs, and was visited by 600,000 visitors. The importance of “Souk Okaz” at present is that it is a unique poetic, artistic and historical gathering for intellectuals and those interested in literature and cultural affairs to learn more.
Tourism in Abha
- Abu Khayal Park: : It has a beautiful view of the city of Abha, and extends to the slopes of Dalae from the western side, and contains green terraces, a playground for children and other entertainment.
- Al-Soudah Mountain: the highest mountain in the Kingdom with a panoramic view, covered with juniper trees and many plant trees. Its weather is cooler even in the summer compared to other regions in the Kingdom. It is a destination for mountain climbers and tourists to offer outstanding activities surrounded by the nature of the property. You can learn more about the draft from here.
Tourism in Al-Ula
- It is located between two large mountains in the far northwest of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and extends across a valley amidst charming nature and remarkable monuments, and there are tourist places worth visiting where you can book your trip through the Al-Ula website.
Tourism in Umluj
- A small coastal area called the Saudi Maldives, the main attraction is the opportunity to sail a boat to very beautiful islands such as Jabal Hassan, or relax in palm-filled beaches such as the beaches of Ras Shaban and Duqm. In the city, you can visit mango farms, or travel to the wilderness areas within an hour's drive, to explore Harrat Lunier, a field of craters and volcanic cones that will appear to you as a world completely different from the coast's sand dunes and blue waters.
Tourism in the Eastern Region
- King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture (Ithra) in Dhahran: With an impressive architectural design, the King Abdulaziz Center extends alongside the discovered sources of oil, and includes a wide range of books and games, a room for visual illusions, perspective drawing, a coloring corner, and a cave of stories.
- Energy Exhibition in Dhahran: The Energy Exhibition is located near to Ithraa, to take its visitors through a scientific journey and a personal experience to explore the world of petroleum and its sciences, energy and technology, either through the interactive kaleidoscope game that accommodates 12 players, simulating production processes energy through interactive touch games, or via recent exhibits and movie screenings on alternative energy sources.
- Al-Falwa and Al-Jawhara Museum for Heritage in Al-Nuzha: The most famous pieces were carefully selected to contain a 500-year-old copy of the Holy Qur’an, in addition to old cars, antique caravans, and some of the founding King Abdulaziz. Visitors can take a tour to see the traditional Saudi bedroom and halls Meetings, to create a strange mixture of excitement and curiosity that will satisfy the passion of its visitors.
- Oriental Art Exhibition (Urban Art) in Al-Khobar: The Al-Bayouni Historical Quarter was renewed in 2018 by a group of young Saudi artists, who transformed its streets into giant art paintings that embodied the most beautiful art of drawing on the walls. Dawi exhibition, and under the patronage of Princess Abeer bint Faisal Al Saud, organized an exhibition to transform six traditional homes in the region into artistic paintings of bright colors, lines and abstract designs. Take the time to tour the area, to realize the impact of art and its ability to create an aura of beauty in the least anticipated places.
- Al-Taybeen Museum in Al-Khobar: On an area of 300 square meters in Al-Khobar, the “Al-Taybeen Museum” project exists, shrouded in a passion for nostalgic for the past, embodied in Majid Al-Ghamdi's desire to preserve his old possessions from his childhood days, a hobby that has grown to include videos, posters, televisions, cameras, food and beverage containers, until 10,000 items were sold. Do not miss a visit to the treasury, which includes the history of the development of Coca-Cola containers from the 1970s to the present, or check out the figures of Sesame street and Barbies, to relive childhood memories.
- The Old Village in Dammam: The “Old Village” is divided into a heritage museum and a popular restaurant that takes you on a journey through history, to live the simple lifestyle in past eras. The five-levels building includes a museum in which many jewelry, manuscripts, fabrics and other artifacts are displayed, and a small market abounds with handicrafts, Arabic perfumes, incense, baskets made from palm, and its most famous feature is the restaurant without a doubt! Visitors will enjoy the experience of sitting on the traditional floor cushions, and taste the most delicious local dishes such as traditional mezze dishes, grilled meat dishes, and rice, which reflect the experience of authentic popular food in the Saudi home.
Heritage Sites the Kingdom’s National
The Kingdom added the Al-Ahsa Oasis to the UNESCO List of World Heritage sites in 2018, which increased the number of sites enrolled in the UNESCO List to 5 heritage sites. This contributed to selecting Al-Ahsa Governorate by the Council of Arab Ministers for Tourism to be the Capital of Arab Tourism for 2019 and introducing the rich heritage of Al-Ahsa governorate.
" The Kingdom increased the number of heritage sites to introduce the Kingdom’s national, Arab and Islamic Heritage by increasing the number of visitable national heritage sites".
Touristic sights and landscaping virtually
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is keen to keep ahead of digital development and provide many facilities in the tourism sector, especially the field of digital travel, by supporting the applications of extended reality (Virtual Reality), including the realization of Vision 2030 for Digital Development in the Kingdom and supporting and participating in the implementation of the Digital Tourism Strategy in the Kingdom launched by His Excellency Mr. Ahmed bin Aqil in the framework of Leap's global and leading technology events.
Digital Tourism Strategy
This strategy is part of the efforts and plans of the Ministry of Tourism to develop the local tourism sector in the Kingdom, the aim of which is to help enrich the efforts to rebuild the tourism sector in the Kingdom, in order to achieve the objectives of "Vision 2030", which aims to place the Kingdom among the most important tourism destinations in the world.
His Excellency, the Minister of Tourism, explained that the Kingdom's experience in implementing this strategy would be inspiring for the global tourism sector. The Kingdom is committed to supporting and welcoming the creations of smart and innovative minds worldwide.
This strategy is designed to improve the procedures that regulate the digital tourism space, develop smart regulations that operate according to a specific framework that ensures the realization of the Kingdom's strategic objectives of playing a role and leading efforts in supporting the tourism sector both locally and internationally, in order to create more jobs, achieve prosperity, and attract more tourists and visitors to the Kingdom.
Digital Tourism Strategy Hubs
The Kingdom's Digital Tourism Strategy includes nine programs and 31 initiatives that are being implemented for three years to be completed by 2025. These programs and initiatives will develop a smart working environment that supports the digital transformation journey in the sector, benefiting the Kingdom's tourism system and providing a comprehensive platform to meet all requirements.
The strategy's implementation aims to provide a seamless experience for tourists and stakeholders to support the prosperity of the tourism sector. The strategy focuses on several axes, including:
- Smooth travel: provide digital solutions to simplify travel procedures.
- Ease of doing business: Launch a unified platform to connect tourism providers and their applications.
- Innovation: Create an interactive environment that allows innovators in the technology sector to experience digital tourism solutions.
- Digital travel: Support extended tourism reality applications (such as virtual reality and augmented reality).
- Promote sustainability: reward tourists for environmentally friendly practices.
- Thoughtful decision-making: Building solutions that allow data collection and provide analysis for the tourism sector.
- Professional digital workforce: making a generation of professionals and entrepreneurs in tourism.
- Investor attraction: Build a network of investors in the tourism sector and engage them through digital platforms.
Digital Tourism Strategy Framework
The strategy framework includes developing a flexible and effective system that supports the sector's digital transformation journey and contributes to adopting a culture of innovation. The World Tourism Organization (WTO), the World Bank, and digital partners such as Microsoft and Cisco supported the strategy.
The strategy was developed in alignment and coordination with the Digital Government Authority and the Digital Transformation Unit and reviewed through an advisory board of 22 global digital transformation and tourism experts.
The strategy works to adopt innovative digital business models that will contribute to raising demand for tourism services, including:
- Develop innovative regulations for the organization of smart hotels.
- Adopt flexible methods for digital travel procedures.
- Provide seamless travel experiences for tourists, entrepreneurs, and government associates.
- Encourage the provision of new services.
- Establishing tourism startups by leveraging artificial intelligence and data technologies to attract investors.
- Enhance the readiness of tourist destinations.
- Visit Saudi Experience
In line with this, the Ministry of Tourism will lead the development of a global digital tourism index to stimulate competition within the sector globally.
The Agreement stipulated the implementation of several projects to improve and develop the Kingdom's tourism experience, especially the Two Holy Mosques.
It also includes cooperation in the development and promotion of tourist attractions in the Kingdom through the use of advanced techniques provided in the Kingdom and outside the Kingdom via platforms and feeding them with appropriate content in cooperation between the two parties, which will provide career opportunities for national cadres to work on advanced techniques in the fields of tourism and national heritage.
Objectives of the Convention
- Use VR technology to provide visitors with data and information for all tourist places in the Kingdom.
- Provide unique experiences using VR technologies to provide users with a journey through Islamic history.
- Keep up with the latest technologies and use the best solutions to support the tourism experience and create the required quality shift.
- Promoting tourism within the Kingdom, in markets, festivals, airports, and on flights using advanced techniques such as augmented reality, mixed reality, and IoT technology, Introducing the Kingdom's tourism components and attractions and creating a positive mental image of the tourism sector in the country.
Some virtual reality applications for digital travel within the Kingdom
- Virtual Reality Experience for the Two Holy Mosques.
In order to achieve the Kingdom's Vision 2030 and within the framework of coordination between ministries to achieve this vision and support the development of domestic and international tourism within the Kingdom, the General Presidency for the Affairs of the Grand Mosque and the Prophet announced a new application called "Haramain Exhibition," which enables visitors from all over the world to go to the Exhibition of Architecture of the Merciful In Makkah Al-Mukarramah by default and inspect the antiquities and photographs displayed in it, and get acquainted with all its information.
The app allows all users a virtual 3D visit to the Two Holy Mosques Architecture Gallery and lets users view the information in Arabic and English.
Founded in 1420 AH, Al-Haramain Exhibition consists of seven halls: reception, grand mosque, Kaaba, photographs, manuscripts, Zamzam well, and prophet mosque hall.
The exhibition also contains some historical holdings: Key Kaaba, black stone covers, and wooden poles dating back to Abdullah bin Zubair's architecture.
- Explore Al-Ala through virtual tours
The Royal Commission for Al-Ula Governorate, the authority responsible for the development of Al-Ula Governorate to become one of the most important international tourist destinations, has launched 360-corner virtual tours in order to achieve the Kingdom's Vision 2030 for Al-Ula Governorate and within the framework of the Kingdom's desire to provide all facilities to visitors.
Al Ula City, one of the most important tourist destinations within the Kingdom, is a vibrant living museum in the open air and a place rich in heritage sites, making its development a top priority of the Kingdom. The Kingdom has enabled all those around the world to explore Al-Ula through virtual Al-Ula tours that offer a unique experience for all areas of the city, giving the viewer a real vision and exceptional experience.
Among the most famous tours are:
- ALULA old town.
- Jabal Ikmah.
- Tomb of Lihyan, son of Kuza.
- Jabal AlAhmar.
- Jabal al Banāt.
- The Diwan.
- Al Hijaz railway station.
- Hejaz railway
- National Museum Virtual Tour
The Ministry of Culture, in collaboration with the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology, has launched a technical simulation platform for the National Museum to provide the experience introducing the digital travel experience of the National Museum that allows one to navigate its hallways and review its contents on a virtual digital journey.
This allows all those wishing to visit the museum to view the archaeological holdings within the museum by digitally navigating its eight sections and through specific viewing points that allow it to be viewed at an angle of 360 degrees.
This seeks to preserve and disseminate national heritage in digital templates locally and internationally, along with access to the museum from anywhere in the world throughout the day, and access to the museum's collection of valuable objects, collections, photographs, and documents that represent an important aspect of national heritage.
Virtual tour strategy for the National Museum
The museum's virtual tour is designed with modern technologies that enhance virtual reality, and with an electronic application available for smartphones and tablets. It includes an accurate simulation of a full tour inside the museum. In corridors, sections, and holdings, this tour is supported by audio content that includes a description of the holdings or a visual presentation of related content. The virtual tour also provides a space to contemplate and interact with the artifacts by reading a text describing each piece.
The "Virtual Tour of the National Museum" platform is the first Arabic platform that provides the user with interactive content that helps facilitate the orthographic conversion of ancient Arabic writings with the Arabic language, which in turn helps in increasing the knowledge enrichment of ancient Arabic writings in the Arabian Peninsula.
- Encouraging visitors to experience an integrated virtual visit to the National Museum.
- Reviving the museum's atmosphere again after the activity stopped since the start of the Corona pandemic.
- Present the Saudi national heritage to audiences from all over the world, in Arabic and English.
- Providing rich information that is displayed smoothly and is equipped with all information, images, audio, and video clips that support the museum's content.
Strategic pillars of cooperation between the Ministry of Culture and the Tourism Development Fund
In order to further spread cultural awareness and enrich the experience of visitors and those wishing to visit tourist areas in Saudi Arabia, a cooperation agreement was concluded between the Ministry of Culture and the Tourism Development Fund.
The Agreement is part of the Ministry of Culture's efforts to realize its aspirations to make culture a lifestyle, raise the level of its economic contribution, and provide Saudi tourist sites with diverse cultural content, thus providing opportunities for national talent across these tourism cultural projects.
And within the framework of the Tourism Development Fund's keenness to activate the integration between tourism and culture and support tourism investments in heritage and cultural sites within the main destinations in the Kingdom, because of their great economic impact that contributes to increasing and diversifying sources of national income, and providing job opportunities.
Objectives of the agreement:
- Developing investment opportunities in cultural assets of a tourism nature.
- Providing financing solutions to the private sector.
- Finding solutions to support related enterprises to contribute to supporting the national economy.
- Adding a cultural imprint to tourism projects by developing heritage sites and turning them into tourist destinations.
- Allocating cultural activities in the existing or planned tourism projects in order to achieve support for the creative talents of the countrymen.
- Benefiting from tourism and cultural gains to enhance investments.
- Achieving the goals of the Ministry and the Fund in line with the national strategies for culture and tourism.
Tourism Human Capital Development
In order to empower the national youth energies and cadres and develop their capabilities, and to develop the tourism sector and enable it to receive tourists and reflect Saudi Arabia’s image in an authentic way, the Kingdom, represented by the Human Capital Development Agency at the Ministry of Tourism, has launched a strategy targeting recent graduates, job seekers, workers in the tourism sector, entrepreneurs and owners of small and medium tourism establishments by offering a number of possible programs, which will contribute to achieve the 2030 vision of Saudi Arabia.
- Tourism Scholarship Program
- Job Oriented Training Program
- Apprenticeship Training Program
- Hafawah Program
- Professional Certification
- Leadership Program
- Executive Education Program
- Digital Learning Platform
- Secondment Program
- Startup Bootcamp program
- Business Accelerator
- SMEs Training Program
- Venture Studio
- Tourism Entrepreneurship Hub
- Tourism Destinations Challenge
- Visit Saudi Experience
- Visit Saudi
- Travel advice related to Covid-19
- Law and etiquette
- To apply for tourism human capital development
- The Ministry of Tourism
- Laws and Regulations
- To tourism activities licensing portal
- Accommodation Facilities Protocol
- Tourist organizer investor guide
- Violations list for travel agencies
- Manuals procedures for tour guide
- User guide for tourist guide
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