Saudi Arabia, in an attempt to grow the tourism sector, has renewed its tourist visa regime. Foreign men and women are allowed to rent hotel rooms together, and guests don't have to prove that they are related.
The new policy is aimed at attracting more foreign holidaymakers. This would allow unmarried solo women, including Saudi women to stay with their partners without. Sex outside marriage is banned in the conservative Muslim nation.
As per the new regulations, women including Saudis are allowed to rent hotel rooms by providing an ID.
The Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage announced that all Saudi nationals are required to show family ID or proof of relationship to check-in. This rule doesn't apply to foreign tourists. Tourists are not expected to wear all-covering black robes but will have to dress modestly. And Saudi women too can book and stay in hotels alone.
According to previous regulations, unrelated foreign men and women could be punished for mixing in public. Saudi has been relaxing social codes in the past few years.
Saudi Arabia announced that it is ready to welcome tourists from 49 countries last week. For decades, foreign visitors were restricted to resident workers and their families, business travellers, and Muslim pilgrims.
Saudi Arabia is trying to grow the tourism sector and diversify its economy which is largely dependent on oil exports. The country is looking at 100 million annual visits by 2030.
The conservative Muslim Kingdom has been relaxing its regulation for the past few years. In August, the nation granted new rights to women which allows them to travel abroad. It ended the driving ban for women which was a public demand for years. However, many female activists protested against the ban are still in prison.
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s ambitious agenda for social reform was well received internationally.