In a bid to diversify its economy, Saudi Arabia has been investing billions in its entertainment sector in recent years ... and foreigners will start getting a taste of it soon.
The kingdom has announced that it will begin offering electronic visas for foreign visitors who wish to attend sporting events and concerts starting December. The visa process will be active just in time for a motor race on December 15.
"We hope the Saudia Diriyah E Prix will see fans from around the globe come to Saudi Arabia to watch this epic sporting spectacle as now your ticket is your visa," said Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki al-Faisal, vice chair of the General Sports Authority, according to The Independent.
The majority of expats enter the country on a work, business, or residency visa. Muslim expats are given special visas to perform the annual pilgrimage, otherwise known as Hajj, and Umrah, the non-mandatory Islamic pilgrimage.
A key goal under Vision 2030 is to increase the number of tourists in the kingdom and revenues generated from tourism to 18 percent in the next 14 years. Under Vision 2030, Saudi Arabia is expected to host up to 1.5 million tourists by 2020.
Since the plan was initiated in 2016, the kingdom has opened its doors wide to a range of new cultural activities. Public concerts, international conferences, cinemas, and other entertainment options have come to the kingdom.
"More than 5,000 festivals and concerts will take place in the kingdom in 2018"
Earlier this year, Saudi Arabia's General Entertainment Authority (GEA) announced that more than 5,000 festivals and concerts will take place in the kingdom in 2018.
In June, Riyadh announced the creation of a new Ministry of Culture, dividing the previous Ministry of Culture and Information into two separate government entities.
To mark Saudi Arabia's 88th National Day, Canadian entertainment company Cirque du Soleil held its first-ever show in Saudi Arabia.
A group of acrobatic performers turned heads to a packed crowd at the King Fahd Sports Stadium in Riyadh. Cirque du Soleil said the show - organized by MBC Group - was "one of its biggest one-off productions ever", according to AFP.
In 2017, some Saudi travel agencies - classified in category D - were given the authorization to begin issuing travel visas. That same year, the kingdom announced that it will begin issuing tourist visas in the first quarter of 2018.
"All government approvals are in place for the launch of electronic visas next year to all nationals whose countries allow their citizens to visit Saudi Arabia," said Prince Sultan bin Salman bin Abdulaziz, head of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage, according to The National.
After a long wait since the initial announcement, it seems as though it is finally materializing.