On August 24, 2022, the official Saudi Press Agency announced the issuance of Royal Decree No. 18 of August 23, 2022, promulgating a resolution passed by the Council of Ministers on the previous day. The new resolution, Resolution No. 79, regulates the tourism industry in the kingdom and, according to Tourism Minister Ahmad al-Khateeb, aligns with the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 goal of receiving 100 million annual visitors in the next five years.
Permits and Licenses
Resolution No. 79 targets the tourism industry by regulating tourism-related businesses and organizations. Article 2 of the resolution creates a permit and license system governed by the Ministry of Tourism. It requires any entity working in the tourism industry to apply for a permit issued by the Ministry of Tourism. Further, the resolution allows joint collaboration between the Ministry of Tourism and the private sector in the tourism industry. (Resolution No. 79, art. 5.) The resolution grants the Ministry of tourism the authority to determine locations in the kingdom that will be identified as tourism destinations. (Art. 8.)
Tax Exemptions and Visa Authorities
The newly issued resolution provides the Ministry of Tourism the ability to suggest tax and customs exemptions. (Decree No. 18, pt. 3.) Additionally, under the new resolution, the ministry has the authority to issue tourist visas in collaboration with the ministries of interior and foreign affairs. (Resolution No 79, art. 12.)
Requirements for Creating New Tourist Destinations and Operations Standards
The new resolution requires that businesses working in the tourism industry provide tourists the best services possible. (Art 3(1).)
Article 6 of the resolution sets a number of conditions that must be fulfilled for a location to be approved as a tourist site by the Ministry of Tourism. One such condition is that the tourist location must protect the environment and ensure the application of environmental standards, in accordance with the provisions of the Environmental Law. Another is that government entities must determine the economic and social effects on the area where the tourist site is located.
The resolution also requires that the Ministry of Tourism work with the Ministry of Interior to establish a mechanism to maintain and protect tourist sites from harm or abuse. (Art. 7(2).) Further, the government entities tasked with city planning are required to consult with the Ministry of Tourism before implementing any projects that may affect a tourist destination. (Art. 7(3).)
If a tourist site is for some reason considered to pose a threat to public safety, the Ministry of Tourism has the authority to shut it down, evacuate its workers and tourists, and provide new temporary residence to those who were evacuated. (Art. 10.)
The Ministry of Tourism has the right to assign inspectors to monitor the performance of businesses working in the field of tourism and investigate violations. (Art. 13.) Violators could be subject to a variety of penalties, including closure of the business, revocation of the business permit, and a fine of up to 1 million Saudi riyals (about US$260,000). (Art. 16.)
Digital Customer Services and Information
Article 9 of the resolution requires that tourist businesses establish online digital customer service platforms to meet tourists’ needs. All organizations working in the tourism industry are required to provide any type of information requested by the Ministry of Tourism. (Art. 9(3).)
Prepared by Ali Ebshara, Law Library intern, under the supervision of George Sadek, Foreign Law Specialist
Law Library of Congress, November 10, 2022
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