In the past, all visitors entering Saudi Arabia either had to be invited by a company for business travel,
or by an individual for leisure travel. The process of obtaining a non-religious visa was a long and cumbersome one that discouraged foreigners from visiting the kingdom. Therefore, in order to diversify the types of visitors, Saudi Arabia is aiming to encourage leisure travel through major campaigns. This is to create awareness around the world that Saudi Arabia is a possible holiday destination. Since 2006, travel agencies have been granted the right to sponsor tourists. This reduces the processing time for visa and enables more foreigners to enter the kingdom easily. To bring about a more diverse tourist base, European and Asian tourists are being targeted by Saudi Arabian travel agents. Not forgetting religious tourists, promotions are being run with the aim of encouraging this group to take longer stays, to pursue leisure activities such as shopping, as well as cultural visits and historical exploration within the kingdom.
There is a huge untapped potential for leisure tourism in Saudi Arabia. Mid-range and budget accommodation offers attractive options as Saudi Arabia looks to target mass tourism.