For 1st time, Saudis offer tourist visas
In Tourism Push, Lifts Abaya Ban On Foreigners
Saudi Arabia will drop its strict dress code for foreign women as it seeks for the first time to lure holidaymakers and the spending that could help develop the kingdom’s economy away from its reliance on oil.
Foreign women won’t have to wear an abaya, the flowing cloak that’s been mandatory attire for decades, though they’ll be instructed to wear “modest clothing”, said Ahmed Al-Khateeb, chairman of the Saudi tourism and national heritage commission and a key adviser to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
On Saturday, the government will open applications for online tourist visas for citizens of 49 countries, while others can apply at embassies and consulates overseas.
Saudi Arabia has long been one of the hardest countries to visit, issuing visas only for business, religious trips, or family gatherings. But in 2016 — as the oil-price rout wreaked havoc on its finances — the kingdom vowed to develop tourism as part of Prince Mohammed’s transformation plan. Officials say it’s a promising non-oil sector that could help draw Saudi tourist dollars back home.
WELCOME TO THE KINGDOM