Thousands apply for foreign tourist visas to Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia announced on September 27 it would start offering tourist visas, opening up the kingdom to holidaymakers as part of a push to diversify its economy away from oil.
"In 10 days, some 24,000 foreigners entered Saudi Arabia on a tourist visa," the television reported, citing the Saudi foreign ministry.
China came top of the list of countries to receive tourist visas, at 7391 visas issued, followed by United Kingdom, the United States and Canada.
Rounding off the top ten list were Malaysia, France, Germany, Russia, Australia and Kazakhstan.
The tourist visa costs 440 Saudi riyals, close to £100, and allows the visitor to stay in the kingdom for 90 days.
Up until September 27, the ultra-conservative Islamic state only issued visas to Muslim pilgrims, foreign workers and recently to spectators at sporting or cultural events.
To encourage arrivals, authorities announced Sunday they would allow unmarried foreign couples to rent hotel rooms together.
Kickstarting tourism is one of the centrepieces of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's Vision 2030 reform programme to prepare the Arab world's largest economy for a post-oil era.
Citizens from 49 countries are now eligible for online e-visas or visas on arrival, including the United States, Australia, several European nations, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea, China and Kazakhstan.
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