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This Gulf nation giant will finally be 'open' to tourism

But is it safe to travel here?

It may be far and away the largest nation in the Gulf, and indeed the entire Middle East, but for non-Muslims, Saudi Arabia is a minnow in tourism terms.


Having seen its Gulf neighbours, especially in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, thrive under open tourism, Saudi Arabia now says it wants to welcome conventional travellers.



To this end, the relatively unvisited nation will issue its first ever tourist visas from 2018, according to the head of the Saudi tourism and national heritage commission, Prince Sultan bin Salman.


"The targets are people who want to literally experience this country and the grandness of this country," he told CNN Money.


Up until now, tourism to the kingdom has been restricted to travellers visiting KSA’s holy sites, most notably Mecca. But the nation wants to lessen its reliance on oil, and tourism is key to that change, as it targets an ambitious 30 million visitors by 2030 (up from 18 million in 2016).


Among the new tourism projects the country is undertaking are the resorts along 160 kms of the Red Sea as well as a Six Flags Resort (by 2022).


KSA could also leverage historic sites like the World Heritage-listed ancient tombs at Madain Saleh.



But entertainment venues in Saudi Arabia are rare; the country welcomed its first (male only) music concert this year, while cinemas and theatres are totally banned, CNN reported.


However, security in the country remains the biggest hurdle.


The US recently issued a new, heightened travel warning for those planning to travel to the Gulf nation.


“Terrorist threats persist throughout Saudi Arabia, including in major cities such as Riyadh, Jeddah, and Dhahran, and attacks can occur without warning anywhere in the country,” its State Department said.


Meanwhile, the Australian Government advises Aussies considering travel to Saudi Arabia (overall) to “reconsider your need to travel”.


For areas within 30 kms of the border with Yemen, it recommends you “do not travel”, its highest alert.


Written by: Mark Harada
Published: 27 November 2017

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