China has officially granted Approved Destination Status (ADS) to Saudi Arabia thereby setting the stage for increased visits of citizens of the Asian country to the kingdom.
Saudi Arabia aims to attract three million Chinese travellers by 2030. The ADS is expected to allow Chinese citizens to travel to Saudi Arabia in group tours as well as facilitate greater ease of access to the kingdom.
Prior to being granted the ADS, Saudi Arabia has over the last few months announced several initiatives with the Chinese market in mind. The country’s flag carrier SAUDIA launched direct Jeddah-Beijing and Riyadh-Beijing flights, in addition to daily flights from Guangzhou.
China has already been included as one of 57 countries eligible for Saudi’s e-visa and visa on arrival. As part of Saudi’s 96-hour Stopover Visa program, those flying onwards can avail of a free hotel stay when flying on SAUDIA.
Also, existing partnerships in Saudi Arabia such as the alliance with UnionPay, which is accepted by half a million merchants across Saudi with over 60 per cent coverage, will provide Chinese visitors convenient payment solutions.
Other initiatives include the launch of the VisitSaudi.cn portal in Mandarin and Mandarin signage at Riyadh airport. The Saudi Tourism Authority said that Chinese holidaymakers can avail of special hotel offers from local Destination Management Companies (DMC) too.
Ahmed Al-Khateeb, Tourism Minister of Saudi Arabia, said, “Underpinned by China’s Belt and Road Initiative and Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030, China and Saudi Arabia are unlocking limitless opportunities and driving forward mutually beneficial collaboration. The ADS status is expected to significantly boost inbound travel from China, creating greater ease of access needed to reach Saudi Arabia’s target of attracting three million Chinese tourists by 2030.”
Fahd Hamidaddin, chief executive officer of Saudi Tourism Authority added, “We will continue to work closely with our partners like GACA, as we facilitate the rapid expansion of air connectivity between our two countries. We are also streamlining our visa services, offering e-visas in just under three minutes and visas on arrival.”