How Will Saudi Arabia’s New 24-Hour Umrah E-Visa Impact Travel, Boost Spiritual Tourism?


Monday, June 24, 2024

Reading Time: 4 minutes

In a significant development aimed at enhancing the pilgrimage experience, the Saudi Ministry of Hajj and Umrah has announced new changes to the Umrah e-visa program. The ministry revealed that the processing time for Umrah e-visas has been dramatically reduced to within 24 hours, and the visa duration has been extended from 30 to 90 days. These updates are set to facilitate a more accessible and enriching journey for worshippers worldwide.

As of the most recent figures, a total of 8,235,680 individuals have arrived in Saudi Arabia to perform Umrah since the season began. Out of these, 7,259,504 pilgrims have successfully completed their Umrah rituals. Currently, approximately 976,176 visitors and Umrah performers remain in the country, continuing their spiritual journey or extending their stay.

In light of the Saudi Ministry of Hajj and Umrah’s recent announcement regarding the expedited 24-hour Umrah e-visa and its extension to a 90-day duration, TTW Editor in Chief Mr. Anup Kumar Keshan has shared his insights on the potential impact of these changes.

He stated, “Tourism to surge in Saudi Arabia with the Umrah e-visa announcement. This new policy simplifies the pilgrimage process and significantly extends the stay period, which will undoubtedly attract more visitors.” Mr. Keshan further predicted that the Ministry’s extension of Umrah participation eligibility to all visa categories—including personal, family, transit, labour, and e-visas—will encourage a diverse influx of travelers eager to partake in the Umrah rituals.

The announcement underscores that the new e-visa process will enable pilgrims to begin their journey as early as the first day of Muharram, aligning this year with July 19. This shift reflects the Saudi government’s ongoing efforts to streamline and modernize the Umrah pilgrimage process.

This comprehensive approach not only facilitates greater accessibility but also aligns with Saudi Arabia’s broader goals of enhancing its tourism and economic sectors as part of Vision 2030.

Nusuk Platform at the Forefront

The Saudi Ministry of Hajj and Umrah emphasized that the application for the e-visa will be handled through the Nusuk platform. This digital portal is central to the Kingdom’s strategy to simplify the process for Muslims wishing to visit Makkah and Madinah. Through Nusuk, applicants can not only apply for their e-visas but also access a comprehensive suite of services, including accommodation and transportation options.

Nusuk is designed to be user-friendly, offering resources and interactive maps in multiple languages to cater to a global audience. The platform’s availability around the clock ensures that pilgrims can access the necessary information and services at their convenience, thus enhancing their travel planning experience.

Extended Benefits for Visa Holders

Previously, Muslims holding visas for tourism from Cooperation Council Countries (GCC), as well as those with entry visas to Schengen countries, the US, and the UK, could use the Nusuk application to make reservations for Umrah and visits to significant religious sites such as Al-Rawdah in Madinah before arriving in Saudi Arabia. This capability has now been extended to individuals with family visas and transit visas, further broadening the accessibility of the Umrah pilgrimage.

With the introduction of the expedited 24-hour e-visa issuance and the extension of its validity to 90 days, visitors are afforded more flexibility and time to explore the Kingdom. This policy change eliminates previous health requirements and the necessity for women to be accompanied by a male guardian, allowing greater freedom of movement within Saudi Arabia.

Impact on Saudi Arabia’s Tourism

These reforms are expected to significantly boost Saudi Arabia’s tourism industry. By making the visa process more accessible and extending the duration of stay, the Kingdom aims to attract a higher number of pilgrims and tourists. This aligns with the broader objectives of Saudi Vision 2030, which seeks to diversify the economy by expanding the tourism sector.

The ease of obtaining the Umrah visa within a day is likely to draw more international visitors, who can now plan their trips without long lead times. The extended 90-day visa allows for a more immersive experience, encouraging visitors to explore beyond the pilgrimage sites and engage with Saudi Arabia’s rich cultural and historical heritage.

Enhancing the Pilgrimage Experience

The Saudi Ministry of Hajj and Umrah’s decision to modernize the Umrah visa process and extend its duration reflects a commitment to improving the pilgrimage experience for millions of Muslims. The ability to apply for visas through the Nusuk platform, with its extensive range of services and support, simplifies the travel process and makes it more inclusive.

By removing restrictions such as the requirement for women to travel with a male guardian and eliminating health prerequisites, Saudi Arabia is making the pilgrimage more accessible to a diverse range of visitors. These measures are designed to facilitate a seamless and spiritually enriching journey, allowing pilgrims to fully immerse themselves in their religious observances and cultural experiences.

Looking Forward

As Saudi Arabia continues to invest in its tourism infrastructure and expand access through initiatives like the enhanced Umrah e-visa, the Kingdom is positioning itself as a leading destination for both religious and cultural tourism. These changes are not only expected to increase the number of Umrah pilgrims but also to attract a broader audience interested in exploring Saudi Arabia’s unique offerings.

The Ministry of Hajj and Umrah’s proactive approach to streamlining the Umrah process demonstrates Saudi Arabia’s dedication to welcoming and accommodating visitors from around the world, thus fostering a more open and inclusive environment for international travelers.

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