For 1st time, Saudis of­fer tourist visas

In Tourism Push, Lifts Abaya Ban On For­eign­ers

The Times of India (New Delhi edition) - - Times Global -

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.



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