Saudi Arabia sets to increase tourist revenue with new regulations for women

Category:  Opinions
Friday, October 18th, 2019 at 3:51 PM

Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman recently changed some of the visa rules within the country. The new regulations now ease the restrictions on nonreligious tourists, specifically regarding women and married couples.

 Women will no longer have to be accompanied by a man when traveling in the country and will be able to book hotels on their own. Unmarried couples will be allowed to stay in hotel rooms alone and no longer need to provide proof of marriage. 

Saudi Arabia’s minister Ahmad al-Khateeb referred to the change as, “a historic moment.” 

There will still be restrictions on what women wear, as they will still be expected to dress conservatively. 

Travel to Mecca (known as the Hajj pilgrimage, which according to CNN attracts more than 2 million people) and Medina, Saudi Arabia’s most popular holy cities, will no longer be tightly regulated for international women. 

Previously, women on the Hajj pilgrimage were expected to be accompanied by a husband or mahram — a male relative — if the woman was under the age of 45. 

 Alcohol will also still be restricted within Saudi Arabia as per religious measures. 

Salman implemented these new rules to try to diversify Saudi Arabia’s economy. He believes his country’s history and technological ingenuity will captivate new tourists who were previously discouraged by the old visa restrictions. 

According to The Wall Street Journal, tourism will produce up to 10% of the country’s gross domestic product by 2030. As of now, it is only 3%. 

Saudi Arabia will be adding more resorts and theme parks, as well. Aman, a luxury hotel group, will be one of the companies taking part in this plan. 

They plan to open three eco-friendly resorts covering approximately 22,561 square kilometers of the Al Ula region. Saudi Arabia also has plans to create a new smart city called Neom.

Unfortunately, the country remains under the eye of people known for their unethical policies and their support for the Yemeni civil war. 

Saudi Arabia has also partaken in air strikes, which have caused massive civilian casualties. Saudi officials believed the government was backed by Shia Muslims from Iran. 

After the overthrow of the previous president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, Saudi Arabia has since assisted revolutionaries with attacks against the current government, one being a blockade in Yemen — raising prices throughout the small country and causing mass food and fuel shortages.

Last year, Salman received backlash from the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Khashoggi was a popular critic of Saudi Arabia’s current government.  

While Salman still denies the claim that he was involved in ordering the murder, he has said he would take “full responsibility” since it was committed by individuals working for the Saudi government.

Due to these issues, Salman’s global image is frequently looked down upon.

This image has also complicated Salman’s new economic plan for which this new visa change is for. 

Currently, Saudi Arabia’s economy is being held up by a mostly oil-based system, but it has since taken a slight hit in production after the attacks on an oil facility in September. 

I believe this is a huge push for Saudi Arabia, not just for economic progress, but also for progress in civil liberties.

Will Saudi Arabia keep moving forward toward equal rights for all? Salman’s plan definitely shows progress. Salman spoke of it in his own words on CBS’s "60 Minutes": “We are all human beings and there is no difference.”

Salman recently allowed Saudi Arabian women to start driving, and they no longer need to ask permission for things such as getting a job, going to a university and getting a surgery. 

I look forward to seeing Saudi Arabia continue to move away from tight regulations on women and hope they take more steps toward equality. 

Tags: saudi arabia

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