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Sun 29 Oct 2017 09:25 AM

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Saudi government approves plans to issue tourist visas - report

At the outset, only visitors using tour operators will be issued with visas

Saudi government approves plans to issue tourist visas - report
Saudi families enjoy a ride on a tourist boat along the corniche in Qatif, 400kms east of the capital Riyadh. Photo: FAYEZ NURELDINE/AFP/Getty Images

The Saudi government has approved plans to begin issuing tourist visas, according to sources quoted by Saudi daily Al Watan.

In the first stage of the rollout, the tourist visas will only be issued to visitors using authorised tour operators, the newspaper reported.

Jamal Al-Fakhri, a member of Saudi Arabia’s Shoura Council and of the Tabuk Tourism Development Council’s executive committee said that he hoped that the Tabuk region – in the northwest of Saudi Arabia – would become a “destination for tourists in the region”, adding that tourism projects would “further diversity job opportunities.

“There are many tour guides who are multilingual and ready to work in the field after meeting the requirements set by the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage (SCTH),” he added.

Rustam Al-Kubaisi, head of the SCTH branch in the southern city of Jizan, pointed to the Asir development project, Taif’s Souk Okaz and the Farasan islands as examples of potentially popular tourism destinations in the kingdom.

“The SCTH has been conducting tourism training workshops for the youth on topics including establishing small tourism projects and methods for increasing safety in tourism establishments,” he said. “This is in addition to raising awareness about the importance of relics, urban heritage and historical buildings.”

In August, the Saudi government announced plans to convert 34,000 square kilometres of islands between the cities of Umluj and Al Wajh into a luxury tourism destination, with Virgin Airlines founder Richard Branson as among first investors. The project is expected to generate as many as 35,000 jobs.

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