Is Saudi Arabia the next tourist hot spot?

Saudi Arabia’s efforts to spice up tourism within the Kingdom proceed because the nation’s management goals to diversify its financial system, extremely reliant on oil gross sales.

The nation stated it’s planning to introduce vacationer visas, the most recent of a sequence of bulletins badysts consider defy outdated Islamic guidelines in favour of extra reasonable ones more likely to entice overseas investments.

At current, vacationers who plan to go to Saudi Arabia for causes apart from to attend the annual non secular pilgrimage Hajj need to undergo prolonged and costly procedures to acquire a visa.

“Tourist visas will be introduced soon,” Prince Sultan bin Salman bin Abdul Aziz, head of the Saudi tourism authority, stated in an announcement quoted by AFP.

His feedback come because the nation is to host its first archaeology convention (7-9 November) to focus on the Kingdom’s historic and cultural heritage.

A sequence of sweeping insurance policies have been launched for the reason that appointment of the brand new Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman, who needs his nation to return to “moderate Islam”.

The prince introduced a $500bn (£381bn) undertaking to create a brand new metropolis, “Neom“, envisioned as a hub for technological innovation.

A promotional video on Neom options ladies jogging as they put on crop tops and dealing alongside males in laboratories. The footage suggests the brand new city-state might be a spot for girls to realize extra freedom within the conservative kingdom, the place they’re at present subjected to draconian non secular restrictions.

Safaris, theme parks and resorts

Neom Crop Top
Still picture from Neom promotional video exhibiting a lady jogging in public carrying a crop high.
Neom

Saudi Arabia additionally introduced a undertaking to construct leisure services in Al-Qiddiya, southwest of Riyadh, together with a safari and a Six Flags theme park.

“Al-Qiddiya will contribute to Saudi Arabia’s diversification drive and boost national economic development,” an official instructed the Saudi Gazzette. He added that the undertaking will even create job alternatives for each Saudi women and men.

The undertaking was introduced in October, only a few months after the nation stated it was planning to construct an opulent Red Sea resort with looser legal guidelines for girls, who might be allowed to put on bikinis.

Saudi ladies are banned from carrying revealing garments whereas in public. As per the nation’s strict gown code, they have to put on a unfastened garment referred to as abaya – normally black – and a headband.

But all that is more likely to change sooner or later, at the very least for feminine vacationers and Saudi ladies who go to particular areas of the nation the place conservative Islam is not going to have a full grip.

“Saudi Arabia formulated a new flexible tourism policy in the backdrop of ‘Vision 2030’, a road map for economic and developmental action in the Kingdom,” Naseer Giyas, journalist and researcher with a deal with Middle East and Muslim affairs, instructed IBTimes UK.

Apart from selling non secular tourism, they’re creating areas in Jeddah and Riyadh for Western vacationers.”

However, not every part might be permitted in the nation. Alcohol might be nonetheless forbidden, even in Neom.

“We can do 98% of the standards applied in similar cities. But there is 2% we can’t do, like for example alcohol,” Prince Mohammed stated as he unveiled the bold Neom undertaking on the Future Investment Initiative convention in October.

“A foreigner who desires alcohol can either go to Egypt or Jordan. So I think it will give the foreign investor and the foreign visitor their needs without harming regulations,” he continued.

It won’t be simple to change cultural and spiritual values in a rustic that has been dominated by strict Sharia legal guidelines for many years. However, the Kindgom’s younger inhabitants is striving for adjustments.

“There are evident repercussions the present regime must face. Because at the very least 20% of the inhabitants would not like these radical adjustments within the society however the majority of the younger inhabitants would not have any situation. Giyas stated.

“For the sake of overseas investments, they’re able to import Western values within the Kingdom. In the close to future, they might enable alcohol in sure locations, however possibly not within the proximity of the 2 holy cities, Mecca and Madina,” he concluded.

Deputy crown prince of Saudi Arabia
Crown prince of Saudi Arabia Mohammed bin Salman – File photograph
REUTERS/Faisal Al Nbader

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