By Hussein Abd El-Fettah
ISTANBUL (AA) - Saudi Arabia will start activation of new tourism visas for 49 countries as of Saturday, according to a local daily.
The Saudi tourism commission started training its staff on issuing the new visas, said the Saudi daily Okaz on Friday.
At first, the tourism visa will be available for dozens of countries including the U.S., U.K., Japan, Malaysia, China, Singapore and others, the daily said.
"The tourism visa will be issued regardless of the religion of the applicant and the duration of stay could be till 90 days," it said but adding that it will not be available for non-Muslim applicants who plan to visit Mecca and Madina cities.
Ahmad Al-Khateeb, chairman of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage told Bloomberg that the Kingdom will drop "the strict rules" regarding the dressing of foreign women visiting the Kingdom, although "they will be instructed to wear modest clothing".
Saudi Arabia seeks to vary its economic resources by initiating new forms of tourism resources, and aims to target foreign tourists in accordance with its "hospitality values and heritage."
"Opening Saudi Arabia to tourism is an important milestone in the implementation of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's Vision 2030, which seeks to diversify the country’s economy and reduce its dependence on oil," Al-Khateeb said.
*Ahmed Asmar contributed to this report from Ankara.