Saudi Arabia’s new tourist visa will stimulate economic diversification and boost visitor numbers from around the world, Chen Weiqing, China’s ambassador in Riyadh, said.
Almost 24,000 foreign visitors entered Saudi Arabia in the 10 days after instant tourist visas were introduced at airports in the Kingdom, according to the Foreign Ministry.
China topped the visitor numbers with 7,391 arrivals, followed by the UK and US. Canada, Malaysia and Russia also had a significant number of visitors to the Kingdom.
Commenting on the figures, the Chinese envoy told Arab News: “We welcome the inauguration of the new Saudi tourist visa and offer congratulations on the positive feedback from tourists.
“Developing the tourism sector will help achieve Vision 2030, stimulate economic diversification and encourage the world to get to know Saudi Arabia,” he said.
The envoy said that Saudi Arabia, with its rich history, unique culture and variety of natural landscapes, held unique appeal for tourists from around the world.
“China and Saudi Arabia are comprehensive strategic partners. We are pleased to see that Chinese tourists topped the number of tourist visas applied so far,” Chen said.
He said that the number of Chinese outbound tourists reached 140 million in 2018.
“We believe that tourism cooperation between our two countries has great potential, and Saudi Arabia will become an attractive destination for Chinese tourists in the near future.
“The Chinese Embassy is ready to work with our Saudi partners to provide quality services to Chinese tourists.”
Significantly, the new visa system also allows ease of access for Muslims to perform Umrah outside the Hajj season without the need for a sponsor, as is the case with work permit visas.
Outside of religious journeys, the new visa does not exclude any visitor on religious grounds and successful applicants can make multiple visits to the Kingdom within a 12-month period, provided each visit does not exceed 90 days.
The newly launched visa system was introduced in a bid to create 1 million jobs in the Kingdom as well as targeting 100 million tourists by 2030 as part of Saudi Vision 2030.