Saudi Arabia to reopen to foreign tourists soon, official says

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Tourists watch Saudi men perform a traditional folk dance at the cultural village of Rijal Almaa in the outskirts of Abha, Saudi Arabia

DUBAI (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia plans to soon reopen to foreign tourists, a senior tourism official said on Monday after the kingdom announced the lifting of quarantine restrictions for certain foreign arrivals.

The kingdom announced late on Sunday that non-citizens arriving from certain countries and who were fully vaccinated against or recently recovered from COVID-19 would no longer be required to quarantine in designated government hotels.

Those new measures, however, only apply to residents, government and business travellers or those visiting friends and family but not foreign tourists, according to the Saudi Tourism Authority (STA).

STA Chief Executive Fahd Hamidaddin told Reuters the kingdom would reopen to foreign tourists this year with an announcement expected to be made "very soon."

Hamidaddin declined to say exactly when.

Saudi Arabia liberalised its tourism industry in 2019, making it easier for foreigners to apply for tourist visas to the kingdom that had been relatively closed off for decades.

Hamidaddin said the kingdom was still targeting 100 million annual visits by 2030, up from about 40 million a year before the pandemic. It was also still targeting for tourism to account for 10% of GDP, up from 3%, by 2030, he said.

(Reporting by Alexander Cornwell, editing by Louise Heavens)