Saudi Arabia is now permitting foreign men and women to rent hotel rooms along without proving they’re related, once the conservative Muslim kingdom launched a new tourist visa regime to attract more tourists.
Women, including Saudis, are also permissible to rent hotel rooms by themselves, in a break with previous regulations.
The moves seem to pave the way for unaccompanied women to travel more easily and for unmarried foreign guests to stay along in the Gulf state, where sex outside of the wedding is prohibited.
The Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage confirmed a report on Friday by Arabic-language newspaper Okaz, adding: “All Saudi nationals are asked to show family ID or proof of relationship on checking into hotels. this is not needed for foreign tourists. All women, including Saudis, can book and stay in hotels alone, providing ID on check-in.”
Saudi Arabia threw open its doors last week to foreign tourists from 49 countries as it tries to grow that tourism sector to diversify its economy away from oil exports. As a part of this move, it decreed that guests need not wear all-covering black robes but should dress with modesty. Alcohol remains prohibited.
Saudi Arabia has been relatively closed off for many years and till recently unrelated men and women, including foreigners, could be severely reproved for mixing in public. Strict social codes have been relaxed in recent years and previously banned entertainment has flourished.
But an influx of tourists — the authorities are aiming for one hundred million annual visits by 2030 — might push boundaries further and risks conservative backlash.
The kingdom ended a heavily criticized ban on women driving last year and in August granted women new rights to travel abroad, breaking away at a guardianship system that assigns each woman a male relative to approve important decisions throughout their lives.
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