We have a very special attachment to Saudi Arabia

- A Monitor Report 01 Oct, 2018
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AHM Mustafa Kamal, Minister for Planning, HM Al-Mutairi, Ambassador of Saudi Arabia and others join hands to cut a cake marking the 88th National Day of Saudi Arabia at Le Meridien Hotel on September 23
Dhaka : Saudi Arabia is very special to us. We have a very special attachment to the country and to the Custodian of the two Holy Mosques.

AHM Mustafa Kamal, Minister for Planning, said this while addressing the reception marking the 88th National Day of Saudi Arabia at Le Meridien Hotel in the city on September 23.

Mustafa Kamal said, every year the government of Saudi Arabia provides the opportunity to Bangladeshi pilgrims to perform Hajj and Umrah, and the number is increasing every year.

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is helping us in the economic arena as well. It is giving the people of Bangladesh the chance to work there and send back remittances.

The Planning Minister said the bilateral relationship is gaining momentum and hoped that it will be strengthened further in the days ahead.

The Minister praised the Ambassador as a man of commitment who is helping cement the ties by fostering trade and commerce between the two countries.

HM Al-Mutairi, Ambassador of Saudi Arabia, spoke of Saudi Vision 2030, which is a plan to reduce Saudi Arabia's dependence on oil, diversify its economy and develop public service sectors such as health, education, infrastructure, recreation and tourism.

The country's goals include reinforcing economic and investment activities, increasing non-oil industry trade between countries through goods and consumer products, and increasing government spending on manufacturing equipment.

Tarik A Alowaidi, Manager Bangladesh, Saudi Arabian Airlines, dignitaries and elite of the city were present at the reception.

The reception venue was tastefully decorated on the occasion. A ceremonial cake was cut by the chief guest, Saudi Ambassador and high officials of the Saudi Embassy. The function was rounded off with an exciting raffle draw where Saudi Arabian Airlines gave away a number of air tickets as prizes.

'Sharek' online visa process

Saudi Arabia on September 25 announced plans for a new online visa process for international tourists. The digital platform, known as Sharek, will be introduced for the inaugural Saudia Ad Diriyah E-Prix, which is the opening race of the 2018-19 ABB FIA Formula E Championship.

The event will be the first accessible to foreign tourists in the kingdom as it looks to expand its events calendar.

Prince Abdulaziz Bin Turki AlFaisal Al Saud, Vice Chairman, General Sports Authority said, "This is a truly game-changing moment for Saudi Arabia and one that we can share with the world. It is very fitting that such a futuristic and sustainable sport as Formula E is pointing to the future direction of our country."

"We hope the Saudia Diriyah E Prix will see fans from around the globe come to Saudi Arabia to watch this epic sporting spectacle as now your ticket is your visa."

The race is taking place over three days on the weekend of December 15 in the ancient historical city of Diriyah, a UNESCO World Heritage site that was the first seat of power for Saudi kings.

The authorities did not say what other events the online visa process would be open for. The price for a 14-day visa is SAR640 (US$170.65) and it allows access from any port of entry, according to a news agency.

Visa holders will be able to freely move between specific Saudi territories.

Obtaining a visa to visit Saudi Arabia has previously been restricted to pilgrims, family members of residents and business people.

However, the kingdom has been seeking to attract more international visitors and boost its domestic tourism industry as part of its diversification efforts, which include plans to boost tourism spending in the country from US$27.9bn in 2015 to US$46.6bn in 2020.

The Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage (SCTNH) said in April it had completed regulation for granting tourist visas to visit the kingdom, according to the Centre for International Communication (CIC).

An upcoming Red Sea tourism project is also set to be the first area in the kingdom where international tourists from some countries will not require a visa to visit.