The visa rules in Saudi Arabia will be relaxed to allow foreigners to take tours to certain historical and Islamic sites as tourists, a senior tourism official from the country said.
Chairman Prince Sultan bin Salman Al Saud of the Saudi Antiquities and Tourism Commission said that starting this year the Kingdom would issue visas called “Umrah-Plus,” which tours that were supervised to additional sites for those that visit the kingdom on pilgrimages that are Islamic in nature.
The Gulf kingdom is very conservative and has two of Islam’s holiest mosques, but at this time does not have tourist visas to issue to travelers.
Prince Sultan announced the visa, which is good for one month, would also be for tourism. The Prince Sultan explained that the kingdom was moving towards Islamic sites that are important in history to revive them and make them presentable to in order to create new museums and offer new experiences.
He explained that the government of Saudi Arabia had invested a large amount of money into the building as well as renovating close to 30 museums, as well as attractions that are Islam-themed in Medinah and Makkah.
Prince Sultan also said that a number of heritage hotels were under construction in tiny villages made with stone and mud. The government, said the Prince Sultan, was serious about rekindling the country’s heritage.
In 2012, revenue from tourism increased 10%, with the majority coming from different Islamic pilgrimages as well as visitors that came from other Gulf countries, who are not required to have a visa to enter Saudi Arabia.
The government said tourism contributed in a large way to the efforts of increasing employment among the people of Saudi Arabia, said Prince Sultan.