Saudi Arabia have announced that they have raised their visa fees an astonishing seven-fold increase resulting in some suggesting that businesses will be put off travelling to the country. Saudi business leaders have dismissed claims that business will be deterred from travelling to the Kingdom saying that most business can afford the increases and will pay them. The visa fees apply across the board from work, visit and residency visas and most controversially cover Umrah and pilgrimage visas. However, fees for those travelling for Umrah and pilgrimage for the first time will be waived and paid by the Saudi Government. Religious tourists were previously exempt from all visa fees. One time entry fees have been increased to 2000 Riyals whilst a 24 month visa will now cost 8,000 Riyals. The increases will not affect any countries in a bilateral arrangement with Saudi Arabia including all GCC countries and residents of these countries will continue to receive preferential visa terms. "The recent visa fee hikes announced by Saudi Arabia will substantially increase the cost of travel to the kingdom for both pilgrims and other types of tourists such as business visitors and those visiting friends and relatives," quoted a consultant. According to sources the increases have been applied to offset falling oil revenues although this has been denied by the Saudi authorities. The low oil prices have impacted revenues and Saudi banks continue to see liquidity pressure. Moody’s has recently downgraded its outlook on the Saudi Arabian economy and the government are working hard to increase revenues elsewhere. It is early days and travels agents have whilst travel agents have yet to see a drop in tourism and travel to Saudi Arabia it remains to be seen if the hikes will affect wither tourist or business visits over the coming year.
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