LAURIE BARATTI | TravelPulse.Com
Troy Warren for CNT
Saudi Arabia just announced that it will resume international tourism on August 1, and visitors from 49 countries are eligible for its tourism e-visas. Those who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 will be allowed to enter the country without a quarantine. A web portal is available for travelers to register their vaccination status in advance.
Foreign arrivals will also be required to provide proof of a negative PCR test taken no more than 72 hours prior to their departure, plus a vaccination certificate that’s been approved by the official health authorities of the issuing country.
The Middle Eastern nation has upgraded ‘Tawakkalna’—its award-winning track-and-trace app—to allow temporary visitors to register with their passport details. Tawakkalna will be an essential tool for tourists and is required in order to enter many public places, including restaurants, shopping centers, cinemas and entertainment venues.
Saudi Arabia’s reopening announcement arrives nearly 18 months after inbound foreign tourism was suspended due to the spread of COVID-19 around the globe. The Kingdom had only just introduced its tourism e-visa program in September 2019, a few months prior to the coronavirus outbreak.
“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.”
With an eye toward capturing hitherto untapped tourism revenue, the Saudi Tourism Authority (STA) was established in June 2020 and has been working to raise brand awareness and build its international network. As a result of STA’s marketing efforts, international awareness of Saudi Arabia as a leisure destination has more than doubled since the start of 2021.
STA’s other achievements to date include establishing representative offices in the U.K., Germany and Russia/CIS, with plans to set up a dozen more overseas offices within the next twelve months. On the ground in Saudi Arabia, the number of local destination management companies (DMCs) has increased from a mere 17 in Summer 2019 to 72 today.
Saudi’s inaugural presence at the Arabian Travel Market (ATM) 2021 event yielded many positive developments and potential partnerships. Major hotel brands, including IHG, Marriott Worldwide, Hilton International and Accor Group announced plans for expansion within the destination. The country’s flag carrier, Saudia, signed a reciprocal loyalty program with Etihad Airways, the national airline of the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Not least of all, MSC Cruises plans to introduce two Red Sea itineraries in Fall 2021, utilizing Saudi homeports.
“Partnerships with the world’s major tourism players are transforming Saudi’s great ambition as a leisure tourism destination into reality,” said 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.”
When its borders open, all visitors will be expected to adhere to the Saudi Ministry of Health’s precautionary public health measures, including the wearing of masks while in public places and maintaining social distancing. At present, over half of all Saudi citizens and residents have received at least one dose of an approved vaccine series, and 20 percent are fully vaccinated.
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