TRAVEL Saudi Arabia offers tourist visas for first time

TRAVEL

Saudi Arabia offers tourist visas for first time

AFP

21:24, September 27, 2019

Saudi Arabia said Friday it was offering tourist visas for the first time, opening up the ultra-conservative Islamic kingdom to holidaymakers as part of a push to diversify its economy away from oil.

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File photo: AP

The kingdom also eased its strict dress code for foreign women, allowing them to go without the body-shrouding abaya robe that is still mandatory public wear for Saudi women, as authorities open up one of the last frontiers of global tourism.

"We make history" today, tourism chief Ahmed al-Khateeb said in a statement.

"For the first time, we are opening our country to tourists from all over the world."

Citizens from 49 countries are eligible for online e-visas or visas on arrival, including the United States, Australia and several European nations, the statement said.

Kickstarting tourism is one of the centrepieces of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's Vision 2030 reform programme to prepare the biggest Arab economy for a post-oil era.

Tourism authorities have repeatedly said that Saudi Arabia will not permit alcohol.

But Khateeb said there will be no restrictions on unaccompanied foreign women, who will also not be obliged to publicly wear an abaya even as they are expected to dress modestly.

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