In an effort to boost tourism, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has lifted several restrictions on foreign women traveling to the Muslim country.
The ultraconservative kingdom’s tourism authority recently released new guidelines that allow men and women to share lodging without proof of marriage. Women will also be allowed to book rooms without the presence of a male guardian.
Stringent regulations on governing social interactions have been eased following Riyadh’s recent launch of its first-ever scheme for tourists visas. The rollout is part of an effort to welcome foreign visitors into the country in order to diversify its economy which has largely been relying on oil.
The new requirements were posted on Twitter last Sunday by the official account of Saudi’s Commission for Tourism and National Heritage.
Saudi’s crown prince Mohammed bin Salman has been pressing deep reforms such as this over the past year. The prince had recently lifted a long-existing ban on movie theaters in the kingdom. In addition to that, he also moved to lift the only ban existing worldwide which prevents women from driving.
Conservative critics say that the reforms have limits, citing the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi last year in Istanbul. Another instance cited is the alleged torture of several incarcerated women’s rights activists.
Saudi Arabia says it aims to increase tourism in order to push the industry’s GDP contribution from three percent to ten percent, as per The Guardian. The country currently holds five Unesco World Heritage sites. With its new tourist visa scheme, visitors will be allowed multiple-entry for a year.