Reforms Allow Women and Unmarried Foreign Couples to Take Hotel Rooms

Reforms Allow Women and Unmarried Foreign Couples to Take Hotel Rooms

Saudi Arabia is to allow foreign men and women to share hotel rooms without proving they are married.

In a move away from its traditionally strict social code and in order to grow its tourism industry, all women will also be allowed to stay in hotel rooms without a male family member.

Couples previously had to prove they were married before getting a hotel room in the Gulf state, where sex outside of marriage is banned.

Unaccompanied women were banned from doing so.

Last week, the oil-rich nation launched a new tourist visa system for 49 countries to attract holidaymakers and investors in the hope of diversifying its economy away from oil exports.

As part of the move, visitors will not need to wear all-covering black robes, but must dress modestly and alcohol remains banned.

Announcing the changes on Friday, the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage, said: "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."

Under its de facto leader Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, the traditionally closed country is aiming for 100 million visits a year by 2030.

Last month women were given the right to travel abroad without male consent and in 2018 women were given the right to drive for the first time.

These reforms mark a significant change from the guardianship system that means each woman is assigned a male relative to approve important decisions throughout their lives.

While the changes the prince has ushered in have won him international praise, both his and Saudi Arabia's reputation has been damaged by the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a crackdown on dissent, and a devastating war in Yemen.

Until now, foreigners travelling to Saudi Arabia have been largely restricted to resident workers and their dependents, business travellers, and Muslim pilgrims who are given special visas to visit the holy cities of Mecca and Medina.

Source: Sky News