Chinese tourists top number of visitors to Saudi Arabia in wake of visa launch
Chinese tourists make up more than one-quarter of the foreign visitors to Saudi Arabia so far.
Saudi Arabia has opened its doors to tourists, including Singaporeans, although the holy cities of Mecca and Medina will remain restricted.
And it is tourists from mainland China who have topped the number of visitors to the country, since the launch of its new visa programme on Sep. 27, Gulf News reported.
More than one-quarter of the tourists to Saudi Arabia are Chinese
According to Saudi Gazette, about 23,715 visitors have visited the country since Sep. 27.
Out of these 23,715 visitors, 7,391 visitors are from China, followed by 6,159 citizens from the U.K. and 2,132 citizens from the U.S, the Saudi foreign ministry further stated.
Additionally, there are also tourists from Malaysia, Canada, France, Germany, Russia, Australia and Kazakhstan.
China previously said Saudi Arabia is set to be a major tourist destination
That Chinese tourists should be the largest number of visitors should not be too surprising, considering that earlier in July, China’s Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Li Huaxin, said that the country was a major world tourist destination, Arab News reported.
Li further attributed the tourism potential of Saudi Arabia to the country’s culture, heritage and civilisation.
He said, “The foreign visitors, when they go to the tourist destinations in the Kingdom, will be amazed by the symbolism deeply enshrined in the human and cultural heritage.”
As such, should Saudi Arabia introduce tourist visas, the number of Chinese tourists will increase considerably, Li further added at that time.
He also highlighted that around 140 million Chinese tourists have visited major tourist destinations in the past year.
Opening Saudi Arabia to tourists is a key milestone of Vision 2030, an initiative by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman Al Saud (commonly known as MBS) to diversify the country’s economy away from oil.
So what can you do with the tourist visa?
According to the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage (SCTH), the visas allow tourists to spend up to 90 days in the country, and are issued on a one-year, multiple-entry basis.
Gulf News further reported that a key feature of the tourist visa is that it also allows Muslim visitors to also perform the Umrah pilgrimage.
The visa can also be obtained online, or upon arrival at a Saudi airport.
Men and women who visit Saudi Arabia will not have to prove they are married in order to rent the same hotel room together.
Women will also be able to rent a room by themselves, in a break with previous regulations.
However, Saudi Gazette reported that women will still need to be accompanied by a male relative during the Haj season.
Top image collage from RYAD KRAMDI/AFP/Getty Images and David Stanley via Flickr