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Saudi Arabia Offers Tourist Visas to 49 Countries For The First Time

Saudi Arabia has announced that tourist visas will be issued for the first time to visitors from 49 countries around the world

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These visas will cost 300 Saudi riyal ($80), with an additional cost of 140 Saudi riyal for travel insurance, reports said. Pixabay

Saudi Arabia has announced that tourist visas will be issued for the first time to visitors from 49 countries around the world, the media reported on Friday.

The Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage (SCTH) made the announcement at an event in Ad-Diriyah, an ancient city that is now a leading tourist destination.

“The electronic tourist visa will be issued within a record time of seven minutes and the beneficiaries of the visa include tourists from 49 countries,” said Tourism chief Ahmed Al-Khateeb in a statement, according to the Saudi Gazette.

“Opening Saudi Arabia to international tourists is a historic moment for our country. Visitors will be surprised… by the treasures we have to share – five Unesco World Heritage Sites, a vibrant local culture and breathtaking natural beauty,” he said.

Al-Khateeb said the Kingdom will also ease its strict dress code for foreign women, allowing them to go without the abaya robe that is still mandatory public wear for Saudi women.

Foreign women, however, will be required to wear “modest clothing,” he added, without elaborating.

Tourists from 38 countries in Europe, 7 in Asia, as well as the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, will be eligible to apply for the new visas.

These visas will cost 300 Saudi riyal ($80), with an additional cost of 140 Saudi riyal for travel insurance, reports said.

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Opening Saudi Arabia to international tourists is a historic moment for our country. Pixabay

Tourists will be allowed to stay in the Kingdom for a maximum of 90 days during the year during which they can enter the Kingdom multiple times. The validity of one year will be counted from the date of issuance of the visa, the Saudi Gazette reported.

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Applications for the tourist visas will commence on September 28. The visa announcement was teased via a website and on social media by way of a video campaign, hashtagged “Where in the world?” which featured several shots of Saudi landmarks and natural wonders, prompting viewers to guess where they might be.

According to SCTH, the website has garnered over 94 million views since going live. The commission announced on Thursday that it established a 15 billion Saudi riyal fund to support tourism projects across the Kingdom, reports say. (IANS)

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Several Top-notch Companies Like Visa, Mastercard, EBay Quit Facebook’s Libra Project

The US lawmakers have attacked Facebook on its Libra project, calling it "delusional" and "dangerous"

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Representations of virtual currency are displayed in front of the Libra logo in this illustration picture. VOA

In  a major jolt to Facebook, several top-notch companies like Visa, Mastercard and EBay have pulled out of the Libra cryptocurrency project ahead of their first meeting in Geneva on October 14.

PayPal was the first to announce its withdrawal from the Libra Association — the 28-member non-profit organisation formed by the social networking giant for the global roll out of its digital currency Libra next year.

“Over the course of a few hours, Visa, Mastercard, Stripe and Mercado Pago all bailed on the project. That meant every major US payment processor has exited the association,” reports The Verge.

David Marcus, Libra project head at Facebook, tweeted: “I would caution against reading the fate of Libra into this update. Of course, it’s not great news in the short term, but in a way it’s liberating. Stay tuned for more very soon. Change of this magnitude is hard. You know you’re on to something when so much pressure builds up”.

“Special thanks to @Visa and @Mastercard for sticking it out until the 11th hour. The pressure has been intense (understatement), and I respect their decision to wait until there’s regulatory clarity for @Libra_ to proceed, vs. the invoked threats (by many) on their biz,” he added.

The pull out is to avoid the US regulators who are scrutinizing Facebook and its subsidiaries.

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Bitcoin, which has risen in value for eight consecutive days, received a boost after Facebook has said it would offer its own cryptocurrency, the Libra coin by end of June 2020. Pixabay

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is set to testify before the US House of Representatives on October 23 to discuss concerns over ‘Libra’ that has run into rough weather.

Zuckerberg will be grilled by lawmakers and regulators during the Q&A session at the US House Financial Services Committee.

In July, Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA), Chairwoman of the committee sent a letter to Facebook requesting an immediate moratorium on the implementation of Facebook’s proposed cryptocurrency, Libra, and digital wallet, Calibra.

Also Read: Apple Planning to Integrate its Own 5G Modem in iPhones by the Year 2022

The US lawmakers have attacked Facebook on its Libra project, calling it “delusional” and “dangerous”.

According to a Visa spokesperson, the company “will continue to evaluate and our ultimate decision will be determined by a number of factors, including the Association’s ability to fully satisfy all requisite regulatory expectations”. (IANS)