Saudi Arabia has started issuing group visas, through licensed tour operators, to foreign nationals intending to visit the Kingdom.
Tourist visas could be obatined for a maximum period of 60-days. Generally visas are issued in accordance with the tour programne, Ahmed Al-Eissa, director
general for licenses and quality at the Supreme Commission for Tourism (SCT), said.
The SCT has decided to issue tourist visas, through licensed tour operators, as part of its efforts to attract 1.5 million tourists a year by 2020, excluding the millions who come on Haj and Umrah pilgrimages.
Giving details of the visa conditions, a SCT official said, tourists should come in groups of not less than five members. The minimum age for women to get visas is 30 if they are not travelling with their close relatives.
The Kingdom has also started receiving tourists coming by ships. "Tourist ships intending to visit the Kingdom must coordinate with organisations licensed by the commission," Eissa told the Arab News.
Presently there are 18 licensed tour operators bringing foreigners on tourist visas to the country.
Earlier, in the absence of licensed tour operators, Saudi Arabian Airlines was authorised to bring in tourists from different parts of the world under its "Discover Saudi Arabia" programme.
The tourism sector, along with Haj and Umrah services, currently contributes six per cent of the Kingdom's GDP or SR55 billion (USD 14.6 billion) annually.