- Title: Saudi Arabia opens to tourists with new visa and no abaya rule
- Date: 26th September 2019
- Summary: RIYADH, SAUDI ARABIA (SEPTEMBER 25, 2019) (REUTERS) AL KHATEEB SPEAKING DURING INTERVIEW (SOUNDBITE) (English) AHMED AL KHATEEB, CHAIRMAN OF THE SAUDI COMMISSION FOR TOURISM AND NATIONAL HERITAGE, SAYING: "The abaya is optional. We will definitely make it clear for people when they apply for visa whether online or at the counter, they will know the dress code. But it is modest. We have a culture, we believe our friends and our guests will respect the culture but definitely it is modest and it will be very clear."
- Embargoed: 10th October 2019 22:09
- Keywords: Saudi Arabia oil tourism industry
- Location: RIYADH / VARIOUS FILMING LOCATIONS IN SAUDI ARABIA
- City: RIYADH / VARIOUS FILMING LOCATIONS IN SAUDI ARABIA
- Country: Saudi Arabia
- Topics: Government/Politics
- Reuters ID: LVA003AYAQRLZ
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: Saudi Arabia threw open its doors to tourists on Friday (September 27), launching a new visa programme for 49 countries and appealing to foreign companies to invest in a sector it hopes will contribute 10% of gross domestic product by 2030.
Visas will be available online for about $80 (Â£65), with no restrictions for unaccompanied women as in the past. Access to the Muslim holy cities of Mecca and Medina is restricted. Until now, foreigners travelling to Saudi Arabia have been largely restricted to resident workers and their dependents, business travellers, and Muslim pilgrims who receive special visas to visit holy sites.
The ultra-conservative Muslim kingdom has in recent years relaxed strict social codes, like segregating men and women in public places and requiring women to wear all-covering black robes, or abayas.
Tourism chief Ahmed al-Khateeb told Reuters in an interview ahead of the official announcement that abayas will not be mandatory for women tourists but modest dress is, including at public beaches.
Khateeb said China, Japan, Europe and the United States were among the top outbound targets.
The move is part of de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's ambitious plans to develop new industries to wean the world's top oil exporter off crude and open up society.
Many of his reforms received international praise, but his image has been tarnished by the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, the arrest of critics including prominent women activists, and a nearly five-year war in Yemen where tens of thousands of people have been killed.
More details, including which countries are eligible, were expected later on Friday.
(Production: Nael Shyouki)
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