The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has welcomed a total number of 24,000 tourists in 10 days after it issued tourist visas for the first time.

“In 10 days, some 24,000 foreigners entered Saudi Arabia on a tourist visa,” state television reported, citing the Saudi foreign ministry.

Saudi Arabia announced on September 27 it would start offering tourist visas, opening up the kingdom to holidaymakers as part of a push to diversify its economy away from oil.

Until the announcement, the Kingdom, a conservative state, only issued visas to Muslim pilgrims, foreign workers and recently to spectators at sporting or cultural events.

To encourage arrivals, authorities announced on Sunday they would allow unmarried foreign couples to rent hotel rooms together.

Tourism is one of the centrepieces of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS)’s Vision 2030 reform programme to prepare the Arab world’s largest economy for a post-oil era.

Citizens from 49 countries are now eligible for online e-visas or visas on arrival, including the United States, Australia, several European nations including Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea, China and Kazakhstan.