Saudi Arabia’s nascent cruise market has become more accessible to GCC residents after the country has made it easier to obtain a tourist visa for the country.
The Ministry of Tourism has announced that residents of the six Gulf Cooperation Council countries can apply for an electronic tourist visa to enter the country, according to a press release.
The new regulations will also make it possible for citizens of the UK, the US, and the EU to apply for a visa when they arrive, simplifying the procedure for traveling to the country.
The move comes as Saudi Arabia prepares for its second annual cruise season, which runs from November to March during the Middle Eastern winter months.
While Dubai, Abu Dhabi and other destinations in the Arabian Gulf, such as Muscat in Oman and Doha in Qatar, have been open to cruise ships for several years, Saudi Arabia only recently emerged on the cruise scene.
MSC Cruises sailed its first homeporting cruise season from Jeddah, Saudi Arabia from November last year, to March this year, with the cruise line reporting huge local demand for the roundtrip itineraries.
Now, with visa entry more accessible to residents of the wider GCC region, the upcoming cruise season is likely to see even greater demand.
“The facilitation of a tourist visa for millions of GCC residents and the visa on arrival extension supports our ambition to welcome 100 million visitors a year by 2030, to the world’s biggest new leisure tourism destination,” said Fahd Hamidaddin, CEO, Saudi Tourism Authority.
While GCC citizens must apply for an eVisa on the official website and review all the requirements online, UK, US, and EU citizens who own eligible passports can now obtain their visas upon arrival.
Saudi Arabia now offers travel eVisas to citizens of 49 additional countries.
“This is not just an announcement; it is an invitation and we are making it easier than ever for visitors to explore thousands of years of history and culture, unmatched natural landscapes, and a thriving entertainment sector,” Hamidaddin added.
“We welcome our neighbors, and the world, to experience the authentic home of Arabia,” he said.