Monday, March 5, 2018

Saudi Arabia issues tourist visas for the first time - including for lone women

The desert country boasts some of the world’s most religious sites including the Masjid al-Haram in Mecca and Medina’s Masjid an-Nabawi, burial site of the prophet Muhammad.

With plans to create a new tourist hotspot twice the size of Wales, Saudi Arabia has miles of unspoilt coastline on both the Red Sea and Gulf Peninsula.

There are even plans to build an entertainment capital to rival that of Las Vegas.

This deeply conservative nation is hoping to welcome 30 million visitors annually by 2030.
To meet this target, the first tourism visas will be issued to travellers from 1 April 2018, alongside business travellers, pilgrims making religious journeys and people visiting relatives.

For the first time, women aged 25 and above will be issued a 30-day single-entry tourist visa without a male chaperone. 

This is a substantial shift from 2006-2010, when the Kingdom largely closed the country to leisure tourists.

The plan to issue new tourist visas was revealed in a new report ahead of the Arabian Travel Market (ATM) 2018 which takes place at the Dubai World Trade Centre from April 22-25.
The change in attitude comes after Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman’s promises of a “moderate, open Islam.”

Softening the nation’s strictest rules, the Crown Prince was responsible for the recent lifting of the infamous driving ban for women.

In an interview with the Associated Press, the Saudi prince unveiled his plans to welcome tourists as part of the Vision 2030 plan.

He said: “It is open for people that are doing business, for people working in Saudi Arabia, investing in Saudi Arabia and people who are visiting for special purposes. And now it will be open for tourism again on a selected basis.”
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