Foreign single men and women can now share hotel rooms in Saudi Arabia as the kingdom seeks to attract more tourists to the country, particularly following its first ever introduction of e-visas and visas on arrival to citizens of 49 countries in September, reported Arabic-language newspaper Okaz,
Visitors to Saudi Arabia have largely been restricted to Muslim pilgrims who are granted special visas to the holy cities of Makkah and Medinah, as well as business travellers and resident workers and their dependents.
Single men and women were previously allowed to share hotel rooms in Saudi Arabia only if they provided proof of relationship, as sex outside of marriage is banned in the kingdom. Saudi couples are still required to share a family ID or proof of relationship upon checking into the same hotel room, according to the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage.
However, foreign and Saudi women are now allowed to rent hotel rooms by themselves in a bid to ease movement and travel regulations for female visitors to the Gulf state.
“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,” the tourism authority said.
Saudi Arabia also told its female visitors they are not required to wear the kingdom’s traditional black abaya (robe), but must dress conservatively.
While alcohol remains banned in the kingdom, Saudi Arabia continues to witness an easing of social codes under the leadership of its de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is aiming to attract 100 million annual visitors to the country by 2030.
Some of the kingdom’s most dramatic changes include the lifting of the women’s driving ban and male guardianship system.