Riyadh : The Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA) announced that the kingdom has started issuing group tourism visas.

"All the procedures are in place to issue such visas for the citizens of some 65 non-Arab countries.

A group visa will be issued for a minimum of four tourists," said Ahmad Al Eisa, director general of the licence department at SCTA.

He said that it is very easy for any group of people intending to visit Saudi Arabia to get visas from the Saudi embassies and consulates in those 65 countries.

Licences renewed

Al Eisa disclosed that some Arab countries will also be included in the list of countries in the near future. He noted that SCTA has renewed the licences of about 500 travel and tourism offices.

It is noteworthy that the General Authority of Civil Aviation had withheld the renewal of their licences for committing violations two years ago.

According to Al Eisa, SCTA is striving hard to increase revenue from both the domestic and foreign tourism sectors, with an eye to strengthening its role in gross domestic product (GDP).

"The number of visitors to the tourism festivals and other activities held in various regions of the kingdom during the last summer recorded a big increase, reaching 10.3 million, of which 3.9 million were tourists, who spent at least 1.2 billion Saudi riyals," he said.

He added that the number of domestic tourists in 2008 reached 28.7 million, who spent 37.5 billion riyals.

On other hand, about four million Saudi tourists spent about 22.2 billion riyals abroad during the period.


The Information and Tourism Research Center under SCTA said earlier that tourism sector's contribution to the GDP rose 2.7 per cent from 36.4 billion riyals in 2004 to 47 billion riyals in 2008.

At the same time, tourism sector's stake in the non-oil GDP was 6.9 per cent.

Late last year, Saudi authorities unveiled plans to spend 101.3 billion riyals in the tourism sector by the year 2020.

This is a 60 per cent increase in the volume of spending on tourism compared with 2002.