Unmarried foreign couples will now be allowed to rent hotel rooms together in Saudi Arabia as part of a new visa regime announced by the kingdom to attract holidaymakers.
Women, including Saudis, are also permitted to rent hotel rooms by themselves, in a break with previous regulations.
The moves appear to pave the way for unaccompanied women to travel more easily and for unmarried foreign visitors to stay together in the Gulf country.
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 required of 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 sector and diversify its economy away from oil exports. As part of the move, it decreed that visitors need not wear all-covering black robes but should dress modestly.
Until now, foreigners traveling to Saudi Arabia have been largely restricted to resident workers and their dependents, business travelers, and Muslim pilgrims who are given special visas to visit the holy cities of Makkah and Madinah.