Saudi Arabia’s Okaz newspaper is reporting that Saudi Arabia will begin issuing tourist visas as of September 27, 2019. It’s worth noting that unnamed sources are being “quoted” as of now, so there’s nothing official yet. According to these sources:
This isn’t the first time that it has been claimed that Saudi Arabia would soon be opened up to tourism. For example, in early 2018 it was reported that Saudi Arabia would start issuing tourist visas as of April 1, 2018. However, that date came and went without so much as a peep.
So we’ll see if this time is any different, though I’d note that a specific date being given just weeks in advance does sound perhaps slightly more reputable.
Last I heard, Saudi Arabia had the goal of welcoming 30 million visitors per year by 2030, up from 18 million in 2016. Currently a vast majority of their visitors are coming for religious reasons, but they want to open up the country to tourism beyond that.
This is allegedly part of the Crown Prince’s plan of creating a more “open, moderate Islam.” Personally I’d say Saudi Arabia has been sending some mixed signals lately when it comes to how open they are.
Yesterday I wrote about my take on visiting Saudi Arabia, following the announcement that three Amans will be opening there in 2023. While it can be hard to decide where to draw the line regarding the ethics of visiting destinations that have laws you disagree with, I’ve decided that for me the line does need to be drawn somewhere… and Saudi Arabia is a case where I’m drawing the line for now.
I’d love to visit Saudi Arabia at some point and see firsthand what their culture is like, but for now I’ll be sitting this one out.