Al Ula
Some 7.8 million foreign tourists visited Saudi Arabia in the first quarter of 2023. Image Credit: Supplied

Cairo: Saudi Arabia’s tourism industry has seen significant growth in the first quarter of 2023, with a surge in both visitors and revenue. Foreign tourist revenue reached approximately SR37 billion during this period, marking a remarkable 225 per cent increase compared to the same time last year.

In the first quarter of 2023, 7.8 million foreign tourists visited Saudi Arabia, representing a 64 per cent surge compared to the same period in 2019, setting a new quarterly record.

This surge in tourism has led to a surplus of SR22.8 billion in the balance of payments for travel in the first quarter of the year, a stark contrast to the SR1.6 billion deficit recorded during the same period last year, according to the Ministry of Tourism. The ministry credited these achievements to their efforts to boost the tourism sector and its contributions to the national economy.

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Saudi Arabia has been actively promoting itself as a tourist destination in recent years, attracting both local and foreign tourists. The kingdom has set an ambitious goal of receiving 25 million foreign tourists this year. In January and February, the country welcomed 2.4 million and 2.5 million visitors, respectively, Tourism Minister Ahmed Al Khateeb said in March.

To facilitate tourism, Saudi Arabia has introduced various measures, including issuing tourist visas upon arrival or online for citizens of several nationalities. Additionally, the kingdom has made it possible for Muslims with different types of entry visas to undertake Umrah and visit Al Rawda Al Sharifa, where the tomb of the Prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him) is located at the Prophet’s Mosque in Medina after booking an e-appointment.

The authorities have extended the Umrah visa duration from 30 to 90 days and allowed visa holders to enter and exit the kingdom through all modes of transportation.