News Desk |
Saudi Arabia’s “liberal” ruler, Mohammad Bin Salman, seems to be serious about establishing the country’s non-religious tourism sector, something that was wholly non-existent until recently. The government approved of a high profile Music Festival in the city of Jeddah, attracting thousands of tourists to the city this summer. Authorities recently announced that an instant tourism e-visa will be issued to individuals who purchase a ticket to attend events held as part of the first edition of the Jeddah Season festival, Arab News reported.
The visa will be issued online via Sharek within three minutes of a ticket purchase – something that aims to incentivize tourists to attend the festival. The festival aims to host high rated US artists like Liam Payne and Steve Aoki; the very controversial Nicki Minaj was also invited to be the headline performer but she voiced her refusal based on the increasing allegations of Human Rights violations in the Kingdom.
Read more: Nicki Minaj cancels concert in Saudi Arabia
In a statement on the matter, Raed Abuzinadah, the general supervisor of the festival – which began on June 8 and will run through July 18 – hailed the decision to speed up the visa process for festival-goers.
He explained that this initiative will not only help support the seasonal event but will also significantly contribute to efforts aimed at revitalizing the Kingdom’s tourism sector.
This is the sad reality over there. If you want to attend the one month old music festival in Jeddah, your e-visa would be ready in less than one hour. But… https://t.co/fMLECF3Xej
— Abdussalam Amoo (@ibnamoo) July 10, 2019
Just 10 years ago, the non-religious tourism industry was practically non-existent in the Saudi Kingdom. However, in recent months, officials have been trying to change that, steering major efforts towards the sector, which is expected to contribute $70.9 billion to the kingdom’s GDP in 2019.
MBS shifting away from strict Islamic rule of his predecessors?
While his efforts to encourage the new tourism sector of the Kingdom slowly prove to be successful, the “de facto” Saudi ruler Mohammad Bin Salman seems to be less focused on the region’s religious significance, unlike all past rulers, and a key element in the region’s dominance over other Muslim states.
New Rulers Old Wars Against Islam. MBS, agent of change ambitiously on personal war path against Islamic traditions like Guardianship laws in Saudi society. Changing Muslim societies status quo upon secular liberal values are in opposition to Islamic values & must be rejected. pic.twitter.com/8ujkDimQKj
— Tsuroyya Amal Yasna (@latteofmylife) July 15, 2019
While the Kingdom’s non-religious tourism industry booms, the religious tourism industry dwindles as the extremely lengthy Visa process for Hajj and Umrah continue to be a major setback and detractor for the sector.
The stark difference in both the tourism sectors raises the question of how far the Crown Prince will liberalize the Kingdom, having already departing from the strict precedent and slowly transitioning the Kingdom into a more modern and globally connected state.