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Saudi Arabia hosts Formula E auto racing as gesture of opening doors to tourists

Saudi Arabia hosts Formula E auto racing as gesture of opening doors to tourists

RIYADH, : “When I heard about the e-visa last month, I was thrilled. I can see Formula E and also Saudi Arabia, a country which is otherwise out of bounds for tourists,” said John, an American who has just arrived in the Saudi capital Riyadh to watch the Formula E debut.

He is just one of the hundreds of foreign fans who visited the Arab country for the upcoming racing championship, thanks to the recent tourist visas issued by the kingdom for the sports event.

This is the first time Saudi Arabia has issued tourist visas for an event besides religious ones.

The move was considered by many as the Saudi Arabia’s formal launch of tourist visa, a decision expected to boost the tourism sector of the conservative country.

“I must say I am impressed. I had a smooth passage through the customs that cleared my stuff in no time,” said John, who did not give his last name.

His opinion was echoed by Chan, a Formula-E fan from Hong Kong, a Special Administrative Region of China.

“Getting the visa was relatively simple. Log onto your computer and your visa pretty much comes up instantly,” said Chan, who did not reveal his first name.

Besides, the Saudi Customs also worked hand in hand with relevant authorities to quickly clear visitors’ shipments of goods, arriving from more than 40 suppliers in more than 15 countries by air, land or sea.

So far, more than 500 shipments that arrived on Thursday, the first day of the Formula E Championship, have been cleared, all within 24 hours.

Faisal Albedah, deputy governor of the Trade Facilitation department of Saudi Customs, said the effort contributes to the fulfillment of the kingdom’s Vision 2030 strategy.

“The Formula E event held in Ad Diriyah marks a milestone in the Vision 2030, as it makes Saudi Arabia a destination of international events,” he said.

Formula E, officially known as the ABB FIA Formula E Championship, is a class of auto racing that uses only electric-powered cars. The event will witness 11 teams and 22 Gen2 cars from around the world battling on the track in the historic Saudi town.

Ignacio Calcedo, event manager of Formula E, is also impressed by the Customs’ efficiency in handling shipments.

“I have been extremely impressed by how efficiently Saudi Customs has worked in partnership with us to deliver all the event shipments on time,” he said.

Formula E will end in a couple of days but its impact on the kingdom will be long-lasting, said Saudi Prince Khalid Al Faisal, also president of the country’s Motor Federation.

“Our staging of Formula E this year is the start of a legacy that over the next 10 years can inspire so much, from the sheer thrill of sport and the togetherness of sharing such moments as families, as fans and as a community, to the opportunity to reach beyond the track,” said the prince.