JEDDAH, Dec 1 – Saudi Arabia will launch the ambitious ‘Extended Umrah Tourism Program’ from the beginning of the new Umrah season on Dec. 4 (Safar 1).
Prince Sultan Bin Salman, president of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA), announced that Umrah pilgrims from 65 countries can benefit from the program, which will be a joint package of the ministries of Haj, foreign and interior. Prince Sultan was speaking to reporters at King Abdullah Economic City (KAEC) in Rabigh after opening Bay La Sun Hotel & Marina, the first hotel at KAEC, and signing a memorandum of cooperation between SCTA and Saudi Industrial Property Authority (MODON).
The integrated system to link Umrah and tourist visas will benefit millions of pilgrims who come to the Kingdom for Umrah every year. Prince Sultan said pilgrims from the permitted countries can take advantage of their visa to spend some more time in the Kingdom and visit historical places and tourist attractions. “The Umrah visa will be converted into a tourist visa after its expiry. The domestic tourism program will be restricted to companies approved by SCTA while the licensed Umrah tour operators need an additional license for this,” he said.
Prince Sultan disclosed that a number of tourist projects will be arranged in coordination with SCTA so as to increase the economic value of these projects. He also unveiled plans to create more job opportunities for Saudis in tourism, which is the second largest job generating sector in the Kingdom. Earlier, the SCTA chief opened Bay La Sun Hotel, which houses 591 deluxe rooms, including six executive suites, located in the Bay La Sun district in KAEC, which is being constructed on a total area of 168 square kilometers. Prince Sultan said that such projects will take Jeddah to new heights of qualitative and excellent tourism.
Prince Sultan also signed MoC with MODON to enhance cooperation in the fields of investment, planning and development of tourist sites, preserving urban heritage sites, in addition to exchanging tourist information and statistics. MODON was represented in signing the deal by Abdullatief Al-Othman, Governor of Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority (SAGIA) and chairman of the board of directors of MODON.
Under the deal, there are seven areas of cooperation between the two organizations. They are licensing, classification, monitoring, and quality control of tourism hubs within the economic cities, planning and developing tourist sites in economic cities, tourism activities, tourism investments in economic cities, urban heritage, protecting archeological sites within economic cities, and establishing information centers.–IINA