Nearly 25,000 foreigners took advantage of Saudi Arabia issuing tourist visas for the first time by visiting the country in the first few days of the visas being issued, according to new reports.
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According to Saudi Foreign Ministry figures, the country from which most visitors had hailed was China, with 7,391 people coming to the kingdom. In second was the UK with 6,159 visitors, while visitors from the United States amounted to 2,132 people. Also reportedly high on the list was Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Kazakhstan, Malaysia and Russia.
It’s the first time Saudi Arabia – long considered one of the world’s most difficult countries to visit for non-religious tourism purposes – has issued such visas.
News of the tourism numbers also comes as amid the relaxing of other formerly-strict rules in the kingdom.
Unmarried foreign visitors will now be permitted to rent hotel rooms together in Saudi Arabia, as the kingdom seeks to boost tourism.
Women, including Saudi nationals, will also be allowed to rent hotel rooms by themselves, without requiring permission from a male guardian, the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage (SCTH) announced.
The SCTH 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.”
However, it has also instructed hotels not to provide accommodation to women without ID, unless they are accompanied by a male relative.
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