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Saudi E Visa: Indians who used UK, US or Schengen visa can now apply for Saudi e-visa online | India

New Delhi: As Saudi Arabia repositions itself as a tourist attraction with something for everyone — and not mainly a pilgrim destination — it is wooing the Indian globetrotter aggressively. The efforts are paying rich dividends as last year India was one of the fastest-growing markets for Saudi with 10 lakh desi visitors being the highest spenders across all its source markets, globally. Saudi Tourism Authority’s (Asia Pacific) president

Alhasan Aldabbagh

has told TOI that the aim is to have over a crore visitors from India by 2030 across all categories like leisure, culture, heritage, and adventure experiences in Saudi. He said Indian passport holders who have UK, US and Schengen visa that has been used at least once will now be able to apply for a Saudi e-visa online. Excerpts from this exclusive conversation:

Q: How important do you see India as a source market for Saudi Arabia? A: India has always been a significant market for us with Saudi currently positioned as the second top destination for Indian travellers, accounting for to 20% of outbound trips in 2022, and making it one of Saudi’s fastest-growing markets. There is also a huge demand to visit Umrah, with Saudi expecting to welcome over 10 lakh visitors from India in 2025, a figure that is expected to grow exponentially by 2030. As Saudi continues to transform into the world’s most unique year-round tourism destination, we will remain committed to fostering further ties with India in the tourism sector.

Q: What is the target in terms of visitor numbers from India this year for Saudi Tourism? A: India is one of the fastest-growing markets for Saudi and in 2022, we welcomed one million Indian visitors who had the highest spending across all our source markets, globally. The highest contribution came from travelers visiting friends and family, followed by business purposes and journeys to visit Hajj and Umrah. For 2023, our aim is to double our visitation numbers and by 2030, our ambition is to reach over 12 million Indian visitors to drive a variety of visitation purposes including leisure, culture and heritage, and adventure experiences in Saudi. We have also increased connectivity as we have 7 direct carriers – SAUDIA, FlyNas, Air India, Air India Express, Indigo Airlines, Spice Jet, Vistara with a capacity of 58,000 inbound seats per week and we have recently launched a new route by Indigo from Ahmedabad to Jeddah. Currently there are 243 direct flights from India to Saudi Arabia per week and post Eid it has increased to 290 per week. It is now easier than ever to visit Saudi, with the country making significant strides to ease access for millions of visitors, inspiring global travellers to explore the authentic home of Arabia. Q: How is Saudi planning to make easier for Indians to visit the country to meet the target? A: Indian passport holders who have UK, US and Schengen visa that has been used at least once will now be able to apply for a Saudi e-visa online. Saudi is also easing access for millions of visitors to experience Saudi with both our 96-hour stopover visa and 9 VFS Tasheel Visa offices have opened around India to provide potential Indian travelers with secure administrative services to start their journey in experiencing Saudi. Last year, along with the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah, we launched Nusak, a fully-integrated digital platform, designed to serve as a seamless planning gateway for visitors and pilgrims embarking on their sacred journeys to Makkah and Madinah. Through Nusak, we are simplifying the pilgrimage process and streamlining the journey for international tourists seeking spiritual fulfillment. Q: What initiatives have been taken to woo Indian travellers? A: Saudi Tourism Authority has officially launched its seasonal campaign, Rethink Summer, aimed at promoting the country as a diverse, unique summer destination. Indian holidaymakers visiting Saudi this summer have a chance to see the country in a different light. Summer in Saudi is a unique experience that offers a diverse range of activities and destinations. Earlier this year we partnered with Tata Indian Premier League (IPL) to launch bespoke promotional packages to promote Saudi as the leading leisure destination for Indian travelers. We plan to launch an upcoming Diwali campaign, which will further showcase Saudi’s interest in building connections with Indian travellers. Q: Did your IPL partnership help drive awareness for Saudi as a tourism destination? A: We are excited to have entered a partnership with Tata Indian Premier League (IPL). This partnership closely aligns with Saudi’s historic love for cricket, with the first governing cricket body established in 2003. Both India and Saudi share similarities in their desire to empower our younger generations, and this collaboration strongly aligns with Saudi’s desire to encourage affinity with Indian travellers and foster mutual connection over sports. Through this partnership, we launched bespoke promotional packages with leading travel agencies to promote Saudi as the leading leisure destination for Indian travellers. Q: What is your 2030 vision for tourism in Saudi? A: Launched in 2016, Vision 2030 is a unique transformative economic and social reform blueprint that aims to open Saudi up to the world, diversify the economy and enrich the lives of all sections of Saudi society. A key part of the delivery of these aims is tourism and advancements in this area have catapulted Saudi’s transformation like no other – building the world’s most dynamic and diverse, year-round tourism destination. The Saudi government has already invested more than $550 billion in developing Saudi’s dynamic tourism infrastructure out of a total commitment of $ 800 billion to the industry. By 2030, over $550 billion in investment will be directed into new destinations. As part of the Saudi Vision 2030 program, Saudi will increase its visitor target to 100 million visitors and is aiming to increase tourism’s contribution to GDP to 10% by 2030. ⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠ We see India as a big part of our visitor target, and in 2022 we welcomed one million Indian visitors who had the highest spending across all our source markets, globally.

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