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Saudi Arabia to reopen doors for international tourists

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Saudi Arabia will lift border restrictions following the COVID-19 global lockdown. Citizens from 49 countries are eligible for a tourism e-visa.

RIYADH - Saudi Arabia will reopen its borders to international tourists from 1 August 2021. Tourism visa holders who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 will be able to enter the country from 1 August 2021 without the need to quarantine. Travelers will need to provide evidence of a full course of one the four vaccines currently recognized: two doses of the Oxford/Astra Zeneca, Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna vaccines or a single dose of the vaccine produced by Johnson and Johnson.

Travelers who have completed two doses of the Sinopharm or Sinovac vaccines will be accepted if they have received an additional dose of one of the four vaccines approved in the Kingdom.

Saudi Arabia has opened a web portal at https://muqeem.sa/#/vaccine-registration/home for visitors to register their vaccination status. The site is available in Arabic and English.

Travelers arriving in Saudi Arabian are also required to provide a negative PCR test taken no more than 72 hours before departure and an approved paper vaccination certificate, certified by the official health authorities in the issuing country.

To accommodate travelers, Saudi has upgraded Tawakkalna, the country’s award-winning track and trace app, to allow temporary visitors to register with their passport details. Tawwakalna is required for entry to many public places in Saudi, including shopping malls, cinemas, restaurants and entertainment venues.

The announcement comes almost eighteen months after international tourism into Saudi Arabia was suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Saudi Arabia launched the tourism e-visa program in September 2019.

“Saudi is looking forward to reopening its doors and its hearts to international visitors,” said Fahd Hamidaddin, CEO of the Saudi Tourism Authority (STA). “During the shutdown we have working in close collaboration with our partners in the public and private sector to ensure that visitors to Saudi can enjoy a memorable, authentic and, above all, safe experience for themselves and their loved ones. Visitors seeking unexplored heritage sites, an authentic cultural experience and breath-taking natural beauty will be surprised and delighted to discover Saudi’s warm welcome.”

The announcement of the resumption of tourism visa comes as Saudi launches its 2021 summer seasonal campaign, bringing a wealth of new attractions and events to the country. The new campaign is expected to tap into significant latent demand among the domestic and regional population, especially for larger scale entertainment events, which have been significantly affected by measures to control the spread of coronavirus.

International Reach
The Saudi Tourism Authority has been preparing for the reopening, building its international network and raising awareness of the brand.

With representative offices already in place in the UK, German and Russia / CIS markets, STA plans to have a further 12 overseas offices within the next twelve months. The Authority has also built an international network of more than 3,000 tour operators, travel agents and other partners through virtual roadshows, training programs and direct outreach.

Saudi’s inaugural presence at ATM 2021 in May brought together more than 20 partners, including Saudia, the national carrier, and the country’s forward-looking tourism development projects, in a show of confidence for the country’s tourism economy. The Saudi pavilion hosted more than 1,000 meetings during the physical event. A wide range of agreements we signed at the event. STA signed MOUs with Travel Boutique Online, India’s leading online travel agency, and Hotelbeds, the world’s leading bed bank. Hotel brands including IHG and Dur Hospitality Group announced expansion plans. And Saudia signed a reciprocal loyalty program with Etihad Airways, the national airline of the UAE, allowing loyalty program members to earn and redeem miles on flights across both networks.

The results of STA’s marketing activities have paid off. International awareness of Saudi as a leisure has more than doubled since the beginning of the year. The number of local destination management companies (DMCs) expanded from 17 in the summer of 2019 to 72 today. MSC Cruises will launch two Red Sea itineraries in the fall with Saudi home ports, and major hotel brands including Marriott Worldwide, Hilton International, and Accor Group will join IHG in expanding their footprint in Saudi.;

“Partnerships with the world’s major tourism players are transforming Saudi’s great ambition as a leisure tourism destination into reality,” said Fahd Hamidaddin. “Saudi is investing more in tourism, and especially sustainable tourism, than any country in the world today. More and more partners are joining with us to share Saudi’s iconic places, profound experiences and unparalleled hospitality with the world’s travelers.”

Domestic success
Despite the pandemic, 2020 was a breakout year for Saudi’s domestic tourism industry as citizens and residents explored the Kingdom - many for the first time – enabling the continued development of activities and new products ahead of the international reopening.

The Saudi Summer campaign, which ran between June and September 2020, generated a 33% increase in spending on hotels, restaurants, and recreation and cultural activities compared to the same period in 2019. Average hotel occupancy was at nearly 50%, with peak occupancy for some destinations at almost 100%.

Saudi Arabia also introduced the country’s first-ever leisure cruise offering along the Red Sea on the Silver Spirit cruise ship, in September 2020. Cruise is being offered once again as part of the Summer season, with the MSC Belissima operating out of Jeddah between July and September.

A comprehensive set of health and safety protocols and nationwide testing for COVID-19 ensured that the growth in tourism was not accompanied by a spike in coronavirus cases. Saudi has recorded a little over 14,700 coronavirus cases per million people in the population, below the global average of 25,153 cases per million and significantly below many of the world’s traditional tourism hotspots.

Health and safety
Saudi Arabia has successfully rolled out a COVID-19 vaccine to all citizens and residents, with more than 25 million doses administered as of 28 July. More than half of all Saudi citizens and residents have now received their first shot and one if five have received two doses of the vaccine.

All visitors will be asked to observe the precautionary measures approved by the Ministry of Health which include wearing a mask in public and maintaining social distancing.

For the most up to date information on entry requirements, especially from countries with new variant coronavirus, travelers should check with their carrier before booking.

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