Booking a hotel room in Saudi Arabia has become possible for women and unmarried couples. In a bid to encourage tourism, the country will now allow unaccompanied women to book hotel rooms. At the same time, unmarried foreign couples will also be allowed to share a room. The changes have come after Saudi Arabia launched a visa to permit visitors to enter the country for tourism.
Saudi has a primarily oil-based economy. To bring about diversity, the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage is pushing for laws allowing more freedom for foreign travellers. The new tourism visa scheme will increase the contribution of the tourism industry to 10% from its original three percent to the country's gross domestic product.
Earlier, women had to be accompanied by a male guardian to stay at a hotel. The man would have to provide identification for the hotel to allot a room. However, with the new laws, women, both Saudi and foreign, can book a hotel room by providing identification and proof of residence. This new law is beneficial for both foreign as well as Saudi women.
When it comes to a couple booking a room, foreign couples can book a room by providing individual identification. They do not have to show proof that they are married. However, this law does not extend to Saudi couples. Al Jazeera pointed out that for a Saudi couple to stay in a hotel room, they have to furnish a family ID or proof of relationship.
Before the tourism visa was introduced, getting a Saudi visa would be granted to professionals, those travelling for business, those visiting family or to those visiting Islamic pilgrimage sites.
The new visa allows foreigners to visit the country for up to 90 days. It is valid for a year and allows multiple-entry into the country.
The push for tourism is another positive move by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), following the lifting of the ban on women driving and entering movie theatres. The nation has five United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation Heritage sites and natural sites like the Red Sea and deserts which tourists can now freely visit.