MATTA: Saudi Arabia’s tourism sector a boon to Malaysia

MATTA: Saudi Arabia’s tourism sector a boon to Malaysia

KUALA LUMPUR: The Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (MATTA) sees Saudi Arabia’s plans to open its doors to foreign tourists as a move that will widen tourism business opportunity in Malaysia.

MATTA deputy president Mohd Akil Yusof said the announcement of the new visa regime would also create new business opportunities for travel agencies to sell tourism packages to Muslims and also non-Muslims in the country.

“This move by the Saudi government will open up new destinations for a lot of travellers in the country, as this visitor visa is for everybody. Now everyone can come and visit Saudi Arabia even if they are non-Muslims,” he told Bernama in an interview today. 

Akil suggested that travellers should first read about the eligibility of the visas before applying online, as not to confuse the visas to perform Umrah and Haj or activities other than tourism.

As to the kingdom’s plan to open its doors to non-Muslims tourists and reaching 30 million visitor arrivals annually by 2030, he said the Islamic nation would need to do a lot of marketing work and offer unique destination packages to attract more visitors.

“As more visitors will start entering Saudi Arabia, tourists will be keen to visit different places in the kingdom too, such as Jeddah, Riyadh…and these destinations require the local tourism market there to offer unique packages as it would be too big of an opportunity for them not to,” he said.

However,Akil cautioned the public that they should not embrace the announcement immediately by going on their own but should consider the services provided by MATTA’s members (travel agencies) to ensure the tourists understand the rules and regulations of their visitor visa.

“We feel that travel agencies involvement is needed because of the language barrier and the tourist market there is still new. It is advisable for people to use travel agencies so the trip runs smoothly with no problems,” he said.

He also added that MATTA and its members would embrace the move by the conservative country and soon promote Saudi Arabia as a destination spot for Malaysians who are either Muslims or non-Muslims.

On Friday, the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage (SCTH) made the official announcement that for the first time, tourist visas be made available through Saudi embassies and consulates across the world.

Citizens from 49 countries around the world, including China, Japan, South Korea, the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Denmark, Germany, Italy, Singapore, Brunei and Malaysia are eligible to apply for online tourist visas.

The move is one of the centrepieces of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s Vision 2030 reform programme to prepare the biggest Arab economy for a post-oil era, and appealing to foreign companies to invest in the sector which hopes will contribute 10% of gross domestic product by 2030.

The SCTH Chairman Ahmed al-Khateeb confirmed that abayas will not be mandatory for women tourists but a modest dress would be required, and that alcohol remains banned.

Until now, foreign visitors entering Saudi Arabia were largely restricted to resident workers and their dependents, business travelers, and Muslim pilgrims who are given special visas to visit Makkah and Madinah.


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