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Saudi Arabia tries to come in from the cold

Global tourism campaign aims to draw 100 million annual visitors by 2030

Previously off-limits to leisure travelers, Saudi Arabia has launched an ambitious campaign to attract international visitors, the cornerstone of which is an online 90-day tourist visa application service available to 49 countries. (Photo courtesy of Seera)

SINGAPORE -- As COVID-19 vaccination programs roll out across the world, tourism-dependent countries are feverishly hoping that visitors will return to their cleaner-than-ever shores from sometime this year.

One such country is Saudi Arabia, a repressive regime that was previously off-limits to international leisure travelers but now has ambitions to be the world's fifth most-visited destination by 2030. It may be hard to imagine this unlikely newcomer to global tourism outdoing a very affable Italy -- the current titleholder with 65 million visitors in 2019 -- but then stranger things have happened.

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