From April 1, women can have Saudi visa without male support

Saudi Arabia is set to start issuing tourist visas to unaccompanied women for the first time in its history from April.

The landmark move is part of widespread reforms dubbed Vision 2030 designed to lessen the ultra-conservative kingdom’s dependence on oil.

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Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman hopes the ambitious initiative will help boost tourism to the country to 30 million visitors by 2030.

It is hoped the increased tourism will also help raise £39bn by 2020.

The first tourism visas will be issued from April 1 to tourists, business travellers, pilgrims on religious journeys and people visiting relatives.

According to report, tourists will be issued a 30-day, single entry visa.

In January, Omar Al-Mubarak for the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage, said that woman aged 25 and above travelling alone will also be issued one, but women under 25 must travel with a chaperone.

The kingdom had previously issued tourist visa for four years from 2006-2010, but it has been largely cut off to leisure tourists since the scheme was stopped.

Some of the world’s most religious sites call Saudi Arabia home, including the Masjid al-Haram in Mecca and the burial site of the prophet Muhammad in Medina. It also boasts a number of world heritage sites, the Al Fanateer Beach, Mada’in Saleh.

Currently, tourism revolves mainly around pilgrimages to religious sites and visas with severe restrictions are only granted for a limited number of countries.

Some of these restrictions include requirements to travel through an accredited company and stay at designated hotels.

Saudi Arabia has been embarking on a period of change, as the king pushes through a number of reforms to lift the repressive rules still enforced by the highly conservative country.

Last year, bans on female drivers, cinemas and women entering certain sports stadiums were lifted.

(Metro)

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