Saudi Arabia removed another coronavirus-related travel measure today.
Holders of visas for the United States, the United Kingdom and the Schengen area in Europe can receive a 12-month visa on arrival upon entering the kingdom. The measure applies to travelers flying to Saudi Arabia via one of its national airlines — Saudia, Flynas or Flyadeal — the official Saudi Press Agency reported. This rule had been suspended until today due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Restoring the visa-on-arrival program marks the final step in returning Saudi Arabia to a pre-pandemic level of openness and makes it one of the most accessible destinations in the world for leisure, business and religious travel,” said Tourism Minister Ahmed Al-Khateeb.
Why it matters: In 2019, Saudi Arabia eased its entry requirements significantly with the purpose of making the kingdom as easily accessible as other tourist spots in the region, such as Dubai. Saudi authorities allowed citizens of the United States, the European Union, China, Japan and other economic powers to enter without a visa.
However, Saudi Arabia closed its borders in 2020 in response to the coronavirus.
The kingdom gradually eased restrictions throughout 2021, first resuming international flights and then allowing vaccinated citizens to travel abroad. However, they instituted more travel bans in December due to the emergence of the Omicron variant.
On March 6, Saudi Arabia removed its vaccination, quarantine and testing requirements to enter, and also scrapped the red list of banned countries.
Virus-related measures had a severely negative effect on the Saudi economy.
The visa on arrival for holders of American and European visas allows citizens of third countries to enter Saudi Arabia more easily, since they have already been approved for travel to the United States and the EU.
Today’s decision comes as Saudi Arabia seeks to boost tourism. In February, Emirates airlines signed an agreement with the Saudi Tourism Authority to boost tourism to the kingdom.
The virus situation: Saudi Arabia is only averaging about 100 cases and two deaths a day due to COVID-19. Saudi Arabia’s population is around 35 million.