Saudi Arabia to allow unmarried foreign couples to rent hotel rooms

Unmarried foreign couples will from now on be allowed to rent hotel rooms together in Saudi Arabia.

Couples previously had to prove they were married before getting a hotel room in order to comply with Islam’s strict ban on non-marital sexual relations.

“All Saudi nationals are asked to show family ID or proof of relationship on checking into hotels,” the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage said in a statement. “This is not required of foreign tourists. All women, including Saudis, can book and stay in hotels alone, providing ID on check-in.”

The new visa regulations also state that female tourists are not required to fully cover up but are still expected to dress modestly, but alcohol remains banned.

The government move comes amid efforts by Saudi Arabia to grow its tourism industry.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has recently made some substantial changes in the ultra-conservative kingdom.

These include ending a ban on female drivers and allowing women to travel abroad without a male guardian’s permission.

Recently Saudi Arabia announced its new tourist visa scheme, saying it was aiming to increase tourism to contribute up to 10 percent of the gross domestic product compared with three percent currently.

Previously, visitor visas were issued only for specific reasons such as for Muslim religious pilgrimages, to visit family or for business.

The one-year, multiple-entry visa scheme allows for stays of up to 90 days at a time and marks the first time the country is allowing foreigners to visit solely for the purpose of tourism.

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