Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 aims to enforce an abundant amount of effort and investment in the tourism sector. This section highlights the future aspirations and opportunities of tourism by taking you through the kingdom’s tourism strategy, the newly implemented steps to issue a tourist visa, which also highlights the list of eligible countries, insight into the Tourism Development Fund, the reasons behind the focus on tourism investment, and the National Tourism Monitoring Platform. This section will also provide informative content on obtaining a tourism license, the main tourist attractions in each of the kingdom’s regions, the recent strategy launched by the Human Capital Development Agency at the Ministry of Tourism for graduates, job seekers, workers in the tourism sector, entrepreneurs and business owners and its numerous qualifying programs.
Saudi Arabia has outlined its tourism aspirations to align with the 2030 vision:
- Raise the contribution of the tourism sector to the domestic product to more than 10%
- Provide one million additional job opportunities
- Attract 100 million annual visits by 2030
New Tourism Regulations
The transit visa allows individuals to pass through Saudi Arabia and is applicable for short stays of over 12 hours. It is available to applicants of any nationality and can be obtained using the Enjaz e-service visa platform.
Personal Visit Visa
The personal visit visa allows individuals who have no business connections or family relationships with the originator to visit Saudi Arabia.
Medical Treatment Visa
The medical treatment visa enables applicants to apply for a visit to Saudi Arabia for the purpose of treatment.
The Umrah visa enables beneficiaries from outside the Saudi Arabia to request an Umrah visa and review the application as well as it allows Saudi diplomatic missions abroad to issue online Umrah visas.
Business Visit Visa
The business visit visa enables companies or institutions within Saudi Arabia to request a visit to one or more persons according to specific professional qualifications bound by business relations with the company that extended the invitation.
The residence visa enables beneficiaries to enter their companions into Saudi Arabia.
Work Visit Visa
The work visit visa enables applicants the approval of two categories of visit visas, the "Individual" visits or the "Sectors and Organizations" visits.
In the last quarter of 2019, Saudi Arabia began receiving visitors and tourists from outside Saudi Arabia with a valid entry visa for a year, allowing them to stay inside Saudi Arabia for a maximum of 90 continuous days. This will work to communicate Saudi Arabia's history, heritage and authentic Arab customs to different cultures and countries.
Countries Eligible for Visa
Tourists from 49 countries can obtain a tourist visa, which are:
- European countries
- Asian countries
- American countries
- Countries of Oceania
Issue the Tourist Visas:
Issued more than 440,000 visas by March 2020.
Tourists from eligible countries:
- Applying from the website before traveling: Request a visa
- When arriving in Saudi Arabia, through the visa offices in the Immigration Department
Tourists from non-eligible countries:
- visit to the Saudi representatives abroad to obtain a visa.
- Those holding a visa for the United States, United Kingdom or Schengen countries, can apply for a visa upon arrival
Tourism Investment in Saudi Arabia
Tourism Development Fund
The Tourism Development Fund was launched to encourage tourism investments in Saudi Arabia and open doors for cooperation with investors directly by providing support in all matters related to tourism projects leading to the development of the sector in the Saudi Arabia, such as restaurants, hotels, and other tourist destinations.
Financial Solutions Provided by the Fund
- Supporting the private sector by granting investment loans and investing in projects by owning shares of the project, and providing guarantees on some other projects
- Supporting distinguished and promising projects by providing appropriate solutions for their implementation, and coordinating with the concerned government agencies to provide the project needs such as lands
Why is Saudi Arabia Focusing on Tourism Investment?
- A bridge for cultural communication between Saudi Arabia and the world
- Produce investment opportunities for local and foreign investors
- The tourism sector is one of the fastest growing in the world
National Tourism Monitoring Platform
This platform was launched to monitor the performance of accommodation facilities and tourism movement in Saudi Arabia, and to be a center for collecting statistics and data related to the tourism sector. To join as a service provider or, visit the National Tourism Monitoring Platform.
In an effort to achieve an integrated digital transformation of e-government procedures, and to facilitate service providers and applicants, the Ministry of Tourism provides a number of electronic services related to tourism licenses.
- Tourist travel agencies
- Tour operators
- Tourist guides
- Tourist accommodation
- Reservation offices for accommodation units
The ministry has also published an integrated guide for those wishing to obtain a license for any of the previous activities and benefit from them (The User's Guide).
Tourist Attractions in Saudi Arabia
Tourism in Riyadh
- Masmak Palace: One of Riyadh's most prominent historical monuments is the foundation point for the unification of Saudi Arabia. The word means a high, strong, and thick building. One of the most important features is the gate of the fortress, Diwaniyah, mosque, well, and towers. Visitors can also visit to feel the heritage of the past and explore Saudi Arabia's heritage. Among the most important features of Al-Masmak are the Palace Gate, the Diwaniyah, the Mosque, the Well, and the Towers.
- The National Museum: is next to King Abdul Aziz Palace (Al-Murabba). This museum displays artifacts, models, films, sound effects, and other historical legacies of Saudi Arabia. The Ministry of Culture gives the opportunity to those who are unable to visit the museum to explore the museum through a virtual tour, revealing the details of the museum and its most prominent items through the link.
- Diriyah Gate: The largest historical and cultural project in the world and one of the most recent projects in Saudi Arabia to attract future tourists worldwide. The official website of the Al-Direya Gate Development Authority provides the time and details of the events taking place in this historic area.
- Kingdom Tower: It has a shopping center, and the Four Seasons Hotel to make this place an extraordinary skyscraper to stay at the top of the Kingdom Tower.
- Al Faisaliah Tower: One of the most famous buildings and a convenient place to shop and stay at the luxurious Al Faisaliah Hotel.
- ROSHN Front: a destination worth trying out, including a list of the best restaurants, some shops, a movie theater, and more. You can find out more about the facilities of the ROSHN Front from here.
Tourism in Jeddah
- Jeddah Waterfront: is going through different development phases, facilitated with services and elements suitable for all groups and ages, and is considered the first destination for tourists and visitors to Jeddah; for being the world's modern waterfront, including entertainment venues, restaurants and walking trails, for more details.
- Mersal Village: One of the world's most popular leisure destinations, with restaurants, cafes, and games for the young and old.
- King Fahd's Fountain: The highest fountain in the world, located in front of the shores of Jeddah City, is a landmark of great historical value, and it was a gift to Jeddah from King Fahd bin Abdel Aziz Al Saud, who ruled the country from 1982 – 2005 . The construction took four years, from 1980 to 1983, and when it opened in 1985, it became one of the city's main tourist attractions. The fountain is located opposite Jeddah's seafront and uses seawater instead of fresh water to release its famous water. To learn more about the fountain, click here.
- The Floating Mosque: A local landmark known for its white pillars on the sea, and a glittering turquoise dome under the sun, where visitors, especially pilgrims and pilgrims, wander through the elegance and design of its marble, built in 1985 over a water area, with bases planted under the sea surface, to learn more about its architectural beauty through the link.
Tourism in Makkah
- The Grand Mosque: the most important religious and tourist destination in the world, in which the greatest rituals of religion are performed and there are Islamic sanctities, the most prominent of which is the Holy Kaaba
- Okaz City: Saudi Arabia has developed Okaz, one of the most famous markets in the pre-Islamic era and a tourist and cultural destination for visitors. Among the most prominent results of this project is the establishment of training workshops in 9 different courses and certified certificates for more than 1700 young men and girls. The cultural program for Okaz Market was held in the 2019 Taif season, with an area of 10 million square meters, with more than 15 thousand seasonal jobs, and was visited by 600,000 visitors. The importance of “Souk Okaz” at present is that it is a unique poetic, artistic and historical gathering for intellectuals and those interested in literature and cultural affairs to learn more.
Tourism in Abha
- Abu Khayal Park: It has a beautiful view of the city of Abha, and extends to the slopes of Dalae from the western side, and contains green terraces, a playground for children and other entertainment
- Al-Soudah Mountain: In the southwest region of Saudi Arabia, Soudah stands at 3,015m above sea level, which is the highest peak in the country with a panoramic view, covered with juniper trees and many plant trees. Due to the high elevation, Soudah enjoys a semi-arid climate, comfortable spring, warm autumn, no severe cold in the winter and no intense heat in the summer. The weather in Soudah makes it an attractive year-round destination. It is a destination for mountain climbers and tourists to offer outstanding activities surrounded by the nature of the property. In order to create memorable experiences by developing a sustainable destination and promoting our unique nature, culture and heritage, Saudi has recently established Soudah Development (SD), which is a real estate development company owned by the Public Investment Fund (PIF) of Saudi Arabia. SD will drive the development of Soudah and parts of Rijal Almaa in the Aseer region to create a year-round luxury mountain tourism destination with immersive cultural experiences while celebrating the region’s natural landscape.
Tourism in Al-Ula
- It is located between two large mountains in the far northwest of Saudi Arabia. It extends across a valley amidst charming nature and remarkable monuments, and there are tourist places worth visiting where you can book your trip through the Al-Ula website.
Tourism in Umluj
- A small coastal area called the Saudi Maldives, the main attraction is the opportunity to sail a boat to very beautiful islands such as Jabal Hassan, or relax in palm-filled beaches such as the beaches of Ras Shaban and Duqm. In the city, you can visit mango farms, or travel to the wilderness areas within an hour's drive, to explore Harrat Lunier, a field of craters and volcanic cones that will appear to you as a world completely different from the coast's sand dunes and blue waters.
Tourism in the Eastern Region
- King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture (Ithra) in Dhahran: With an impressive architectural design, the King Abdulaziz Center extends alongside the discovered sources of oil, and includes a wide range of books and games, a room for visual illusions, perspective drawing, a coloring corner, and a cave of stories.
- Energy Exhibition in Dhahran: The Energy Exhibition is located near Ithraa, to take its visitors on a scientific journey and a personal experience to explore the world of petroleum and its sciences, energy and technology, either through the interactive kaleidoscope game that accommodates 12 players, simulating production processes energy through interactive touch games, or via recent exhibits and movie screenings on alternative energy sources.
- Al-Falwa and Al-Jawhara Museum for Heritage in Al-Nuzha: The most famous pieces were carefully selected to contain a 500-year-old copy of the Holy Qur’an, in addition to old cars, antique caravans, and some of the founding King Abdulaziz. Visitors can take a tour to see the traditional Saudi bedroom and halls Meetings, to create a strange mixture of excitement and curiosity that will satisfy the passion of its visitors.
- Oriental Art Exhibition (Urban Art) in Al-Khobar: The Al-Bayouni Historical Quarter was renewed in 2018 by a group of young Saudi artists, who transformed its streets into giant art paintings that embodied the most beautiful art of drawing on the walls. Dawi Exhibition, and under the patronage of Princess Abeer bint Faisal Al Saud, organized an exhibition to transform six traditional homes in the region into artistic paintings of bright colors, lines and abstract designs. Take the time to tour the area, to realize the impact of art and its ability to create an aura of beauty in the least anticipated places.
- Al-Taybeen Museum in Al-Khobar: On an area of 300 square meters in Al-Khobar, the “Al-Taybeen Museum” project exists, shrouded in a passion for nostalgic for the past, embodied in Majid Al-Ghamdi's desire to preserve his old possessions from his childhood days, a hobby that has grown to include videos, posters, televisions, cameras, food and beverage containers, until 10,000 items were sold. Do not miss a visit to the treasury, which includes the history of the development of Coca-Cola containers from the 1970s to the present, or check out the figures of Sesame Street and Barbies, to relive childhood memories.
- The Old Village in Dammam: The “Old Village” is divided into a heritage museum and a popular restaurant that takes you on a journey through history, to live the simple lifestyle of past eras. The five-levels building includes a museum in which many jewelry, manuscripts, fabrics and other artifacts are displayed, and a small market abounds with handicrafts, Arabic perfumes, incense, baskets made from palm, and its most famous feature is the restaurant without a doubt! Visitors will enjoy the experience of sitting on the traditional floor cushions, and tasting the most delicious local dishes such as traditional mezze dishes, grilled meat dishes, and rice, which reflect the experience of authentic popular food in the Saudi home.
Saudi Heritage Sites
VR Visits to Touristic Sites
Saudi Arabia is keen to keep ahead of digital development and provide many facilities in the tourism sector, especially the field of digital travel, by supporting the applications of extended reality (Virtual Reality), including the realization of Vision 2030 for Digital Development in Saudi Arabia and supporting and participating in the implementation of the Digital Tourism Strategy in Saudi Arabia launched by His Excellency Mr. Ahmed bin Aqil in the framework of Leap's global and leading technology events.
Digital Tourism Strategy
Digital Tourism Strategy Hubs
The Kingdom's Digital Tourism Strategy includes nine programs and 31 initiatives that are being implemented for three years to be completed by 2025. These programs and initiatives will develop a smart working environment that supports the digital transformation journey in the sector, benefiting the Kingdom's tourism system and providing a comprehensive platform to meet all requirements.
The strategy's implementation aims to provide a seamless experience for tourists and stakeholders to support the prosperity of the tourism sector. The strategy focuses on several axes, including:
- Smooth travel: provide digital solutions to simplify travel procedures
- Ease of doing business: Launch a unified platform to connect tourism providers and their applications
- Innovation: Create an interactive environment that allows innovators in the technology sector to experience digital tourism solutions
- Digital travel: Support extended tourism reality applications (such as virtual reality and augmented reality)
- Promote sustainability: reward tourists for environmentally friendly practices
- Thoughtful decision-making: Building solutions that allow data collection and provide analysis for the tourism sector
- Professional digital workforce: making a generation of professionals and entrepreneurs in tourism
- Investor attraction: Build a network of investors in the tourism sector and engage them through digital platforms
Digital Tourism Strategy Framework
The strategy framework includes developing a flexible and effective system that supports the sector's digital transformation journey and contributes to adopting a culture of innovation. The World Tourism Organization (WTO), the World Bank, and digital partners such as Microsoft and Cisco supported the strategy.
The strategy was developed in alignment and coordination with the Digital Government Authority and the Digital Transformation Unit and reviewed through an advisory board of 22 global digital transformation and tourism experts.
The strategy works to adopt innovative digital business models that will contribute to raising demand for tourism services, including:
- Develop innovative regulations for the organization of smart hotels
- Adopt flexible methods for digital travel procedures
- Provide seamless travel experiences for tourists, entrepreneurs, and government associates
- Encourage the provision of new services
- Establishing tourism startups by leveraging artificial intelligence and data technologies to attract investors
- Enhance the readiness of tourist destinations
- Visit Saudi Experience
Objectives of the Convention
- Use VR technology to provide visitors with data and information for all tourist places in Saudi Arabia
- Provide unique experiences using VR technologies to provide users with a journey through Islamic history
- Keep up with the latest technologies and use the best solutions to support the tourism experience and create the required quality shift
- Promoting tourism within Saudi Arabia, in markets, festivals, airports, and on flights using advanced techniques such as augmented reality, mixed reality, and IoT technology, Introducing Saudi Arabia's tourism components and attractions and creating a positive mental image of the tourism sector in the country
Some VR Applications for Digital Travel Within the Kingdom
- Virtual Reality Experience for the Two Holy Mosques.
- Explore Al-Ala through virtual tours
Among the most famous tours are:
- ALULA old town
- Jabal Ikmah
- Tomb of Lihyan, son of Kuza
- Jabal AlAhmar
- Jabal al Banāt
- The Diwan
- Al Hijaz railway station
- Hejaz railway
- National Museum Virtual Tour
The Ministry of Culture, in collaboration with the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology, has launched a technical simulation platform for the National Museum to provide the experience introduce the digital travel experience of the National Museum that allows one to navigate its hallways and review its contents on a virtual digital journey.
This allows all those wishing to visit the museum to view the archaeological holdings within the museum by digitally navigating its eight sections and through specific viewing points that allow it to be viewed at an angle of 360 degrees.
This seeks to preserve and disseminate national heritage in digital templates locally and internationally, along with access to the museum from anywhere in the world throughout the day, and access to the museum's collection of valuable objects, collections, photographs, and documents that represent an important aspect of national heritage.
Virtual Tour Strategy for the National Museum
The museum's virtual tour is designed with modern technologies that enhance virtual reality, and with an electronic application available for smartphones and tablets. It includes an accurate simulation of a full tour inside the museum. In corridors, sections, and holdings, this tour is supported by audio content that includes a description of the holdings or a visual presentation of related content. The virtual tour also provides a space to contemplate and interact with the artifacts by reading a text describing each piece.
The "Virtual Tour of the National Museum" platform is the first Arabic platform that provides the user with interactive content that helps facilitate the orthographic conversion of ancient Arabic writings with the Arabic language, which in turn helps in increase the knowledge enrichment of ancient Arabic writings in the Arabian Peninsula.
- Encouraging visitors to experience an integrated virtual visit to the National Museum
- Reviving the museum's atmosphere again after the activity stopped since the start of the Corona pandemic
- Present the Saudi national heritage to audiences from all over the world, in Arabic and English
- Providing rich information that is displayed smoothly and is equipped with all information, images, audio, and video clips that support the museum's content
Strategic Pillars of Cooperation between the Ministry of Culture and the Tourism Development Fund
In order to further spread cultural awareness and enrich the experience of visitors and those wishing to visit tourist areas in Saudi Arabia, a cooperation agreement was concluded between the Ministry of Culture and the Tourism Development Fund.
The agreement is part of the Ministry of Culture's efforts to realize its aspirations to make culture a lifestyle, raise the level of its economic contribution, and provide Saudi tourist sites with diverse cultural content, thus providing opportunities for national talent across these tourism cultural projects.
And within the framework of the Tourism Development Fund's keenness to activate the integration between tourism and culture and support tourism investments in heritage and cultural sites within the main destinations in Saudi Arabia, because of their great economic impact that contributes to increasing and diversifying sources of national income, and providing job opportunities.
Objectives of the agreement:
- Developing investment opportunities in cultural assets of a tourism nature
- Providing financing solutions to the private sector
- Finding solutions to support related enterprises to contribute to supporting the national economy
- Adding a cultural imprint to tourism projects by developing heritage sites and turning them into tourist destinations
- Allocating cultural activities in the existing or planned tourism projects in order to achieve support for the creative talents of the countrymen
- Benefiting from tourism and cultural gains to enhance investments
- Achieving the goals of the ministry and the Fund in line with the national strategies for culture and tourism
Tourism Human Capital Development
In order to empower the national youth energies and cadres and develop their capabilities, and develop the tourism sector and enable it to receive tourists and authentically reflect Saudi Arabia’s image. Saudi Arabia, represented by the Human Capital Development Agency at the Ministry of Tourism, has launched a strategy targeting recent graduates, job seekers, workers in the tourism sector, entrepreneurs and owners of small and medium tourism establishments by offering a number of possible programs, which will contribute to achieve the 2030 vision of Saudi Arabia.
- Tourism Scholarship Program
- Job Oriented Training Program
- Apprenticeship Training Program
- Hafawah Program
- Professional Certification
- Leadership Program
- Executive Education Program
- Digital Learning Platform
- Secondment Program
- Startup Bootcamp program
- Business Accelerator
- SMEs Training Program
- Venture Studio
- Tourism Entrepreneurship Hub
- Tourism Destinations Challenge
- Visit Saudi Experience
Mobile Applications for the Tourism and Travel Sector
To discover the key government applications for the Tourism and Travel Sector, please click here.
- Visit Saudi
- Travel advice related to Covid-19
- Law and etiquette
- To apply for tourism human capital development
- The Ministry of Tourism
- Laws and Regulations
- e-services rating
- To tourism activities licensing portal
- Accommodation Facilities Protocol
- Tourist organizer investor guide
- Violations list for travel agencies
- Manual procedures for tour guide
- User guide for tourist guide
- Visit Saudi Experiences