Unmarried foreign couples will now be allowed to rent hotel rooms together in Saudi Arabia as part of a new visa regime announced by the religiously conservative kingdom. Women will also be allowed to stay in hotel rooms alone.
Couples previously had to prove they were married before getting a hotel room.
The government move comes amid efforts by Saudi Arabia to grow its tourism industry.
The easing of stringent regulations governing social interactions comes after Riyadh launched its first tourist visa scheme, as part of efforts to open up the country to foreign visitors and diversify its oil-reliant economy.
The Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage posted the new requirements on Twitter on Sunday. Women will be allowed to rent hotel rooms with proof of identity or if they have a male guardian present who does have proof of identity.
The move comes amid deep reforms over the past year by the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, who has lifted a ban on cinemas in the kingdom and the world’s only ban on women driving.
“All Saudi nationals are asked to show family ID or proof of relationship on checking into hotels,” the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage said in a statement.
“This is not required of foreign tourists. All women, including Saudis, can book and stay in hotels alone, providing ID on check-in.”
The new visa regulations state that female tourists are not required to fully cover up but are still expected to dress modestly.
Alcohol remains banned.
Saudi Arabia announced the new tourist visa scheme last week, saying it was aiming to increase tourism and hoping to push its contribution to GDP from its current 3% to 10%. For the launch of its new visa, the country was highlighting its five Unesco World Heritage sites, contemporary art sites and natural sites including the Red Sea, desert and mountains.