Saudi Arabia is set to begin offering tourist visas specifically for people looking to attend sporting and music events.
Starting in December, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia will begin offering those looking to attend sporting events and concerts a specific tourist visa to allow entry to the insular Middle Eastern nation. The news comes as Saudi Arabia is set to host its first ever Formula E Grand Prix, bringing with it thousands of racing fans seeking a seat track-side.
Before this year, Saudi Arabia didn’t offer tourist visas at all. Only business travelers, Muslim pilgrims, and those traveling with or to see family in the country were allowed visas. Even under these three categories, visas were expensive, difficult to obtain, and would only last up to a maximum of two weeks.
As of April, the Kingdom began offering tourist visas for the first time in its history, but only for travelers booking through a government licensed tourist agency.
The Al Saud ruling family wishes to further open their borders to international sporting organizations and famous personalities, and so will begin offering event visas before the Formula E Grand Prix begins December 15th.
“This is a truly game-changing moment for Saudi Arabia and one that we can share with the world,” said Prince Abdulaziz Bin Turki Al Faisal Al Saud, vice-chair of Saudi Arabia’s General Sports Authority. “It is very fitting that such a futuristic and sustainable sport as Formula E is pointing to the future direction of our country.”
Saudi Arabia’s Formula E event will take place in the ancient city of Diriyah, the ancestral home of the Al Saud family and a World Heritage Site. The race will be performed on existing roads, which will form a beautiful and contrasting backdrop against the ultra-futuristic Formula E race cars.
The track is being constructed with the help of Unesco in order to preserve the World Heritage Site.
News of new tourist visas comes at the same time as Saudi Arabia announced plans for a new tourist location on its northwestern coast. Amaala, or as the Arabian tourism board calls it, the "Riviera of the Middle East," will be a luxury tourist spot complete with hotels, private villas, and yacht clubs.