Saudi Arabia Says LGBT Visitors Are Welcome in the Country

the more there is, the merrier it gets

For the last few years, Saudi Arabia has been on an ambitious mission to diversify its economy away from income that relies on oil and gas and develop its public sectors such as culture and entertainment. Having been at the backbone of most of the mammoth ventures and developments in the Kingdom, the strategic framework, dubbed Vision 2030, is well underway, having not only explored but also heavily financed several streams of revenue that are expected to bear their fruits in the years to come. Such is the case for the tourism sector, which has been experiencing hefty investment and growth since the inception of the government-led effort in 2016. 

Just last week, we reported on septuple Ballon d’Or winner Lionel Messi’s lucrative partnership with the Kingdom as the tourism ambassador of the country to promote the Kingdom while also helping attract an increasing number of tourists to discover the Gulf State’s many wonders. Hoping to develop an entire industry to eventually generate substantial amounts of earnings that would subsidize the loss of petrodollar money, recent updates are confirming KSA’s willingness to open up to all and draw as many visitors towards them— and that despite raising a couple of eyebrows on the way.

Last week, the Saudi Tourism Authority’s (STA) website received quite an unexpected update to its Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) section as it now claims that “Everyone is welcome to visit Saudi Arabia and visitors are not asked to disclose such personal details,” when answering the question whether LGBT visitors are welcome to visit the Kingdom.

When the website’s FAQ was updated remains mysterious. An official spokesperson of the STA said that the policy was always in place, however, an archived version of the website on March 14, 2023 and before did not have the question and answer on the page.

While same-sex activity is still considered to be a criminal offense in the country, it’ll be interesting to see whether from both a cultural and legal perspective if things will change and hopefully move towards a more inclusive direction. Even if the efforts that are being put forward right now are a step in the right direction, the question that is now worth being asked is whether the community in focus will respond positively to the changes and embrace the informal invitation to visit the country that for so long has felt like it was closed off to them. 

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