China has officially granted approved destination status (ADS) to Saudi Arabia, setting the stage for an increase in visits by citizens of the Asian country to the kingdom.
Saudi Arabia aims to attract three million Chinese travelers by 2030. The ADS is expected to allow Chinese citizens to travel to Saudi Arabia on group tours and facilitate greater access to the kingdom.
Before receiving the ADS, Saudi Arabia announced several initiatives aimed at the Chinese market in recent months. The country’s national airline, SAUDIA, launched direct flights Jeddah-Beijing and Riyadh-Beijing, in addition to daily flights from Guangzhou.
China has already been included as one of the 57 countries eligible for Saudi Arabia’s e-visa and visa on arrival. As part of Saudi Arabia’s 96-hour stopover Visa program, those flying onwards can take advantage of a free hotel stay when flying with SAUDIA.
Additionally, existing partnerships in Saudi Arabia, such as the alliance with UnionPay, which is accepted by half a million merchants across Saudi Arabia with over 60 percent coverage, will provide Chinese visitors with convenient payment solutions.
Other initiatives include the launch of the VisitSaudi.cn portal in Mandarin and signage in Mandarin at Riyadh airport. The Saudi Tourism Authority said Chinese tourists can also take advantage of special hotel offers from local destination management companies (DMCs).
Ahmed Al-Khateeb, Minister of Tourism of Saudi Arabia, said: “Supported by China’s Belt and Road Initiative and Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030, China and Saudi Arabia are opening up unlimited opportunities and driving mutually beneficial collaboration. “ADS status is expected to significantly boost inbound travel from China, creating greater ease of access needed to achieve Saudi Arabia’s goal of attracting three million Chinese tourists by 2030.”
Fahd Hamidaddin, CEO of the Saudi Tourism Authority, added: “We will continue to work closely with our partners such as GACA, as we facilitate the rapid expansion of air connectivity between our two countries. “We are also streamlining our visa services, offering e-visas in just under three minutes and visas on arrival.”