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Why does Saudi Arabia open its doors to the world?


Saudi Arabia has made great economic and international progress these days – it is opening up to the world and to tourism. These are important facts, which we tend to leave behind because of the not-so-flattering news that the media tends to publish lately.

When talking about Saudi Arabia, we often refer to a country that is still closed and underdeveloped. In recent years, Saudi Arabia proves more and more the opposite. Moreover, despite the possibility of visiting the country during religious pilgrimages or for work-related visits, one of the most recent projects of the Kingdom is already a fact: issuing tourist visas for a period of 30 days.

Initially, visas will only be issued to ticket holders in order for them to attend events in the country. This was very much the case for the Formula E Grand Prix run by electric racing vehicles. The competition recently took place in the city of Dariya (World Heritage Site under UNESCO), located in the suburb of Riyadh, and was a great success. This event is a first step towards diversifying revenue sources in areas such as tourism, and reducing the Kingdom’s dependence on oil exports under “Vision 2030“.

Obtaining electronic visas is a big step and a first for Saudi Arabia who proved to be ready to open up to the world. In this context, Michel Liégeois, Professor of International Relations at UC Leuven, says: “It is time to light fires and draw attention to other elements.” Aspects showing that this country “seeks to evolve“. “I do not think that such a fundamental decision, with such important consequences, can be taken solely for image issues, “says Michel Liegeois.

Saudi Arabia’s goal is to transform the oil monarchy into an open, tolerant, economically developed, diversified and globally influential country within the next fifteen years. How? Through social and societal reforms that increase the skills of the population and promote the inclusion of women in society. But also by a broad investment program in all sectors of the productive economy, as well as in the new sectors that are responsible for the development of Saudi Arabia, such as e-commerce, energy efficiency, the mortgage market, the leisure industry, tourism or education.

It has been a long time since Saudi Arabia announced, at regular intervals, its desire to open up to international tourism. The Kingdom relies on its history, heritage and landscapes to attract tourists. A few months ago, the authorities announced a numbered goal: to attract 30 million visitors a year by 2030.



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