Published on : Wednesday, October 9, 2019
The Saudi Commissioner for Tourism and National Heritage (SCNTH) has recently notified new regulations for tourist accommodations. Earlier, couples had to provide proof of their marriage to share hotel rooms. However, this rule has been relaxed for international visitors while Saudi nationals will have to stick by this rule.
As per the new rules, foreign women travelling alone will also be able to book rooms for the first time. They will be required to dress up modestly though. They will have to keep their shoulders and knees covered in public while it will be their own choice whether or not to wear the full-body Abaya.
Earlier, even international female visitors needed to be accompanied by a man for Hajj pilgrimage if they were under 45 year.
The new directive comes amid deep reforms over the past year by the Saudi crown prince, Mohammad Bin Salman, who had lifted a ban on cinemas in the kingdom and the world’s only ban on women’s driving.
Saudi Arabia aims to attract an annual 100 million visitors (international and domestic) by 2030, with tourism contributing up to 10 per cent of GDP. The Arab kingdom is building new resorts and theme parks and also promoting its archaeological treasures to promote tourism.
However, its poor record on human rights, security concerns heightened by recent attacks on its oil industry and last year’s killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi- are taking a toll on the tourism sector.
As of now, over 2 million Muslim visitors make the annual Hajj pilgrimage.
The new rules say that the Muslim visitors may make Umrah (a pilgrimage to Mecca taken at any time of year) on a tourist visa but they will still need specific Visas for a Hajj pilgrimage.