SAUDI ARABIA: THE NEXT TOURIST DESTINATION
Saudi Arabia offers stunning natural landscapes combined with attractive modern and ancient cities.
Saudi Arabia may not be on the dream list of countries to visit for travelers and travel enthusiasts. The image of a closed country for decades has made Saudi Arabia rarely come up with the idea of traveling abroad.
But since 2019, Saudi Arabia has, for the first time, offered tourist visas to boost its tourism sector as part of reforms and diversify its economy, so it doesn't depend on oil. Tourism official Ahmed al-Khateeb said in a statement: "Opening Saudi Arabia to international tourists is a historic moment for our country."
Citizens of 49 countries will be allowed to apply for a visa online starting Saturday (28/09). Further details on which countries will receive the facility will be announced soon. Still, the main targets are tourists from China, Japan, Europe, and the United States. Non-Muslim tourists will still be barred from visiting the holy cities of Mecca and Medina.
Regarding how to dress, Saudi Arabia is also more open. The brand issued a rule that female foreign tourists are not required to wear the abaya, a mandatory garment for Saudi Arabian women in public. Something that very rarely happened in Saudi Arabia a few years ago.
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Until now, Saudi Arabia's image as a tourist destination is still wrong, even though the country has many historical sites. This is because of some strict rules regarding norms that make foreign guests reluctant to come. Whereas the desert and mountain views are pretty impressive, and the waters in the Red Sea have the potential to attract tourists.
Developing tourism is one of the goals of the Vision 2030 socio-economic reform program launched by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The goal is to fix the economy from dependence on oil and create jobs for Saudi Arabia's youth.
To carry out the plan, the rulers of Saudi Arabia are trying to liberalize outside of very strict social norms slowly. Reforms, for example, allowed the construction of the first cinema, permits for women to drive vehicles, music concerts that both men and women could attend, and various entertainment and other practices that were previously prohibited.
The government of Saudi Arabia now hopes to attract up to 100 million visitors every year until 2030. The target is that the tourism sector by 2030 can increase its contribution to Gross Domestic Product from the current 3% to 10%.
King Abdullah Economic City is located 125 kilometers from Jeddah. Prince Mohammed bin Salman designated the area as a tourist destination four years ago to overcome the region's dependence on oil.
In handling tourism during the pandemic, the Saudi Arabian government allows tourists who have been fully vaccinated to enter their country. All tourists must provide a negative PCR test within 72 hours from the time of departure.
Some of the vaccines approved by the Saudi government include Pfizer-BioNTech, AstraZeneca, Moderna, or Johnson&Johnson. There is an additional requirement for Sinopharm and Sinovac vaccines: they have received a third injection of the vaccines approved by the Saudi authorities above. Later tourists will not require quarantine as long as they have negative PCR evidence before flying. Register these details with health authorities.
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Unfortunately, Indonesia is not included in the list of countries that are allowed to enter Saudi Arabia. There are 49 countries which can apply for a tourist visa, including:
1. United States of America
9. the Czech Republic
32. San Marino
41. China (including Hong Kong and Macau)
43. Australia and Oceania
44. New Zealand
47. South Korea
49. United Kingdom
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