Saudi Arabia will open its doors to international tourists under a new visa system that allows people from 49 countries to apply for e-visas and visas on arrival, an official said on Friday.
However, no black African nation, including Nigeria, is included in the offer.
The chairman of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage, Ahmad Al-Khateeb, said the move was part of the kingdom’s efforts to wean its economy off oil.
“Riyadh aims to increase international and domestic visits to 100 million a year by 2030. Opening Saudi Arabia to international tourists is a historic moment for our country,” said Al-Khateeb.
The tourist visa system will take effect from Saturday, Saudi newspaper, Okaz, reported. The new visa system will be available to citizens of 49 countries, the report said.
Citizens of Germany, the United States and China are among those who are eligible to use the new system.
Tourists will be allowed to stay for up to three months per entry but can only spend a maximum of 90 days a year using their one-year multiple-entry visa.
Saudi Arabia has long been one of the hardest countries for tourists to enter, with visas granted only for short-term business trips, religious pilgrimage, or for travellers with family in the country.
The ultra-conservative kingdom is on a push to attract holiday makers.
In 2016, Saudi Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman, launched Vision 2030, a grand scheme aimed at diversifying the monarchy’s oil-reliant economy.
Mohammed has presented himself as a reformer who has been easing social restrictions, especially those targeting women.
He championed major decisions, including allowing women to drive for the first time in the kingdom as well as easing the guardianship rules by allowing women to get a passport and travel outside the kingdom without the approval of a male guardian.
The kingdom’s guidelines for tourists does not specify a dress code for women, saying that it is not mandatory for a woman to cover her hair or wear the long, loose garments known as abaya.