Jakarta (Indonesia Window) – Saudi Arabia will resume issuing tourist visas by January 2021 following months of lockdown, according to Tourism Minister Ahmed Al-Khateeb, Arab News reported.
The minister told Bloomberg visas could be issued sooner depending on positive developments regarding the COVID-19 vaccines.
“It is possible the process could be accelerated and visas made available at an earlier date,” he noted.
In addition to preparing the reopening of its borders to foreign tourists, Saudi Arabia also plans to use its G20 presidency role this year to facilitate the resumption of global travel.
Saudi Arabia halted international travel and closed its borders on March 15 after the Coronavirus outbreak, then resumed its domestic travel on May 31 and partially opened its borders on September 15, allowing foreign workers holding resident permits to return to the kingdom and others to leave.
While the number of international tourists fell during the lockdown, the minister said that domestic tourism flourished, helping to offset the decline.
The kingdom is still on track to expand the sector by 10 percent, he said, with 10 locations selected across the country to promote domestic tourism.
Domestic travel grew by 31 percent this year compared with the previous 12 months, with popular destinations such as the southern mountains of Abha and the island-dotted Umluj drawing increasing numbers of visitors.
Al-Khateeb pointed out that although the numbers are positive, the tourism sector has been hit hard by the lockdown and expected to see a 35-45 percent decline by the end of the year.
The kingdom will end all restrictions on air, land and sea transport after January 1, 2021, the Interior Ministry said.
A specific date is yet to be announced on the official opening of the country’s borders in December.
Reporting by Indonesia Window