In a strategic move aimed at boosting its tourism industry, Saudi Arabia is granting free visas to residents from the neighboring countries of the UAE, Bahrain, and Kuwait for attending major events in the kingdom such as the New Year 2020 show.
The three-day visa scheme will be valid throughout the kingdom's festival season, said local media citing senior officials.
There are several festivals operating around the country, the Riyadh Season, the Tantora Festival held in Al Ula in the north-west of the country.
As per the new circular, all regular residents of these three Gulf countries can enter Saudi Arabia through a number of border outlets, and the competent authorities have been instructed to give them a free visa in the name of "attending an event", reported local daily Alwast, citing senior sources.
The decision comes following the tremendous success achieved during the Riyadh Season and the Music Festival 'MDL Beast', which was held for the first time in the world from December 19 to 21, and also as part of its strategy to attract tourists into the kingdom for the upcoming events, said the report.
Under the Riyadh Season, the MDL Beast festival was held for three days over the weekend and welcomed more than two dozen acts, who performed across its five stages, it stated.
Saudi authorities have made it clear that the free visa will be valid only for three days this New Year.
The departments concerned with these border outlets have already received a circular to implement all the requirements of this decision, granting regular residents of these three countries a free visa to attend an event, and making all the necessary arrangements to serve tourists crossing into the kingdom, stated the report.
According to senior officials, Saudi Arabia has achieved significant and distinctive tourism growth after the launch of its new tourist visa system, which allows citizens of 49 countries to enter the kingdom without a prior visa.
On arrival, these tourists need to pay a total visa charge of SR440 ($117) - of which SR300 is for visa and SR140 for health insurance - in addition to the value-added and transaction fees, said the Alwast report.
Each tourist visa will be valid 360 days from the date of issuance, and the duration of stay in the kingdom has been set at 90 days for each visit, not exceeding 180 days during one year, it added.
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