Manama: Details about tourism visas for Saudi Arabia will be officially announced by the end of March and the reports being published about them are speculative and partly based on options that have not been formalised, the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage (SCTH) has said.

“The preparations for the launch of the tourism visa are underway in full coordination with the ministries of interior and foreign affairs,” the SCTH said in a statement.

“The two ministries and the |Commission have formed a joint working group that will approve the regulations regarding the visas. The rules, regulations and details will be announced by the end of the first quarter of this year and will be published in the official gazette and posted on the Commission’s website.”

The Commission is currently working with its partners on a final review of the visions, ensuring the readiness of all concerned parties and the local communities.

It is also reviewing the tourism services and the development of marketing packages.

Special programmes have also been set up to boost the capabilities of “front staff” in dealing with tourists

“Electronic tourism visas will be initially issued to groups of tourists through accredited operators,” the SCTH said.

Earlier this month, reports said that Saudi Arabia would allow women who are at least 25 years old to visit the kingdom without the need to be accompanied by a family member.

The reports added that the tourist visa will be independent of the current work, visit, Haj and Umrah visas and would be a single-entry and valid for 30 days.

Other reports said that the minimum age for single women to be granted tourism visa would be 30 years.

Saudi Arabia is launching massive projects to open up the tourism sector and boost the number of people visiting the kingdom under a highly ambitious drive led by Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman to diversify the economy and to shed its ultra-conservative image.

Opening up the tourism sector and highlighting new destinations, other than the religious sites in Makkah and Madinah, in the vast kingdom will create numerous employment opportunities for Saudi nationals.

On August 1, Prince Mohammad announced the launch of an international tourism project, The Red Sea, a resort built across a lagoon of 50 untouched islands to be developed in partnership with some of the world’s leading hospitality firms.

The Red Sea is largely expected to spearhead the diversification of the Saudi leisure industry.

Laws on par with international standards will govern the newly mapped semi-autonomous area and the first phase, which will include development of hotels, luxury residential units and all logistical infrastructure such as air, land and sea transport hubs, is expected to be completed by the end of 2022.