At the 22nd Annual Arab Tourism Ministers Meeting, on 24th December 2019 in Al Ahsa – the 2019 Arab City of Tourism – Saudi Arabia assumed the presidency of the Arab League Tourism Ministers.
At the meeting, Ministers discussed opportunities for regional-wide tourism offerings and unified strategies for sustainable growth of the sector to benefit local communities and the environment.
Hosting the event, HH Ahmad bin Aqil Al Khatib, Chairman of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage (SCTH) said: “This year (2019) has marked the historic moment of Saudi Arabia opening its doors to the world. We are welcoming more visitors and investors than ever before”.
Saudi Arabia now offers a Tourism E-Visa. It is multiple-entry, valid for one year, allowing a stay of up to 90 days per entry. The cost is $125 plus handling fee ($75 from http://www.visasupply.com). Applicants must provide scanned colour copies of passports’ information pages in JPEG format (passports must have at least six months’ validity): send in city and date of birth, a scanned photo 2”x 2” or digital photo against a white background (JPEG, JPG or PNG format), date of arrival and exit from Saudi Arabia, and name and address of hotel or residence during visit to Saudi Arabia.
Interestingly, YouGov research surveyed 9,521 people across the USA, China and five key markets in Europe, and the results revealed a growing interest in visiting Saudi Arabia. Of Italians surveyed, 35% said they would be more likely to visit Saudi Arabia following the new visa launch. British tourists were 15% more likely, and Americans at 14%. Of all respondents 73% reported a preference to visit several destinations rather than stay in one location.
There is a certain incongruity in this opening up of tourism as it is rumoured top hotel management positions are being nationalised. Are luxury hotels in the Kingdom ready to have Saudi GMs? We will see. And of course non-Muslims cannot visit Makkah (TripAdvisor’s best value hotel, of 1,979 properties in the entire country, is M Hotel Makkah by Millennium). At the moment the largest hotel in the country is the Tilal Al Naseem, also in Makkah, which has 5,383 keys, but some projects promise twice that number of bedrooms.
There are plenty of expensive hotels in major cities. Current prices on http://www.expedia.com include Braira Hettin, Riyadh, quoted at $3,637, and Nawara Takhassusi, Riyadh, at $2,717. Ritz-Carlton Riyadh, forever immortalised because of certain political happenings, is quoting $453.
So why are tourists attracted to Saudi Arabia? http://www.break.com suggests top places to visit include:
The tallest tower in the world – Kingdom Tower, Jeddah – it will be 1,000 metres tall when finished.
Mina City, Makkh province, located in the west of Saudi Arabia, the area of the city is only 20 square kilometres, but it is very attractive to tourists by the neat white canvas tents, which are lined to serve people. During the five-day Haj festival you see more than 100,000 tents, each up to eight metres high and made entirely from fire-resistant Teflon fiberglass.
Mangrove ecosystems at the wild sanctuary of Rasalkhor with over 20,000 birds (67 different species)
Gold markets: Unlike other countries, gold market selling gold is similar to the way that Vietnamese people sell vegetables. Gold here is not taken too seriously, or carefully placed in large stores like other countries. Don’t forget to take souvenir photos with the world’s largest gold ring on display at this market.