JEDDAH: Visitors buying online tickets for the Jeddah Season program of events will be able to secure an e-tourism visa at the same time, organizers have revealed.
The announcement came as the city’s 40-day “Sea and Culture” festival of fun and entertainment continued on Sunday with the launch of a schedule of international shows and plays being presented for the first time in the Kingdom.
The Jeddah Season festival, which began on June 8 and runs until July 18, forms part of a major drive to boost tourism in the Kingdom. And in a bid to speed up the application process for visitor passes, anyone purchasing an event ticket online will be issued with an e-visa within three minutes.
The entertainment program aims to highlight the city as a top visitor destination while at the same time encouraging partnerships with local businesses. Organizers also hope to generate up to 20,000 job and volunteering opportunities for young Saudis throughout the course of the festivities.
Jeddah Season kicked off with a crowd-pulling concert by Emirati singer Ahlam, known as Queen of the Gulf, followed on day two by popular Saudi vocalist Mohammed Abdo, and Egyptian star Amr Diab on the third day, with shows held at the King Abdullah Sports City.
Lebanese singer Wael Jassar is billed to perform on June 13, and Nancy Ajram, also from Lebanon, is set to take to the stage for the first time in Saudi Arabia, followed by Egyptian singer Mohammed Hamaki on June 15. The newly erected Roman Amphitheater at Jeddah Waterfront will provide another of the festival’s concert venues.
Other events lined up for Jeddah Season include street music performances and parades, award-winning international visual arts displays with 3-D special effects lights shows inspired by Baroque art, spectacular flame mountain and laser shows, and a glow garden featuring customized art pieces depicting marine wildlife of the Red Sea.
Athr Gallery, Art Jameel and Hafez Gallery will be unveiling several new exhibitions and the festivities will also include folklore dances by renowned singing and dancing groups, as well as authentic Hijazi cuisine served by Jeddawis.
Award-winning Michelin-starred restaurants and pop-up eateries will be serving festivalgoers at Jeddah Waterfront. Local favorite, Aurum Lounge, will offer a great beach dining location with views of firework displays, and first-time pop-ups Nusr-et, Nobu, Signor Sassi and Scalini will be dishing out food for visitors until 2 a.m. each day.
Most of the Jeddah Season events will be spread across the venues of King Abdullah Sports City, Jeddah’s historical area, Al-Hamra Corniche and Jeddah Waterfront.
General supervisor of Jeddah Season, Raed Abuzinada, said the festival formed part of a national initiative to promote the tourism sector, which was considered a major contributor to the Kingdom’s economy.
He said the issuing of electronic tourist visas had been linked to the purchase of tickets for any Jeddah Season event. Visitors buying festival tickets online would, where required, be automatically guaranteed a tourist visa which could be issued within three minutes (details at sharek.com.sa), Abuzinada added.
Jeddah Season is a key part of the city’s future tourism strategy, which includes supporting local entrepreneurs and owners of small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) interested in investing in tourism partnership opportunities in retail, restaurants, services and other related sectors.
It also aims to provide 20,000 seasonal job and volunteering opportunities for young Saudis, allowing them to gain vital workplace experience for future career openings. In addition,
the festival is geared to backing the events sector and providing job opportunities for local startups and SMEs, while attracting international companies to the Saudi market.