Announced out of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities earlier this year, visitors are now able to apply for a tourist visa under the Extended Umrah Tourism Programme and stay in the country for up to 30 days.
According to the Saudi Gazette, foreigners from 65 countries will be eligible for the new tourist visa. Before this week, only tourists from Gulf Cooperation Council states – Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates – were allowed visa-free entry into the country.
Saudi Arabia is home to two of the iconic mosques in Islam: Masjid al-Haram (also known as the Grand Mosque) in Mecca; and Al-Masjid al-Nabawi (also known as the Prophet’s Mosque) in Medina, home of Muhammad’s tomb.
Tourism is the second biggest industry for Saudi Arabia, which saw revenues rise 10%, mostly from Islamic pilgrimages.
It’s estimated that about 3 million people undertake the Hajj pilgrimage to the Grand Mosque every year.