The head of Saudi Arabia's tourism authority has promised that tourist visas will be available soon for those who wish to visit the kingdom.

"Tourist visas will be introduced soon," Prince Sultan bin Salman bin Abdul Aziz said in a statement this week, according to The Times. The tourism head did not specify a fixed time frame. 

The prince's comments fall in line with previous announcements from Riyadh, which have shown that the country is gearing up to open its borders to tourists.

Currently, Saudi Arabia only allows religious tourists in, with millions of Muslims from around the world annually visiting to perform hajj or umrah.

However, a key part of Riyadh's Vision 2030 transformation plan - which aims to diversify the kingdom's oil-reliant economy - is to greatly enhance the tourism sector. 

In July, it was revealed that the country's Commission for Tourism and National Heritage would be allocating $2.67 billion to develop and rebuild tourism projects. 

The kingdom plans to significantly develop its Red Sea coast

The massive development will be a "semi-autonomous" area within the kingdom, leading to speculation that its traditional rules on dress and prohibition on alcohol will not be applied. 

A document, reported by Bloomberg, said the area will be ruled "by independent laws and a regulatory framework developed and managed by a private committee."

Beyond potentially challenging the kingdom's conservative laws, the project will be truly massive, covering 34,000 square kilometers – including 50 islands. This means it will span an area bigger than the country of Belgium.

The project is directed at transforming Saudi Arabia's Red Sea coastline into a global tourism hotspot, with luxury hotels and pristine beaches. Work is expected to start within two years and will be funded by the kingdom's sovereign wealth fund. 

According to reports, the area will not require visas or will grant visas on arrival, making it easily accessible to travelers from around the world. It is also expected to add some $4 billion to the Saudi economy annually while creating 35,000 jobs.

Historic sites will also be a big draw for tourists

In addition to luxury and seaside tourism, the kingdom is aiming to attract travelers interested in history.

Next week, Saudi Arabia is hosting its first-ever archaeological conference to showcase its significant historical treasures.

From ancient abandoned cities in the deserts to historic mosques and unique heritage sites, the kingdom has a lot to offer.