Head of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage, Prince Sultan bin Salman bin Abdel-Aziz, speaks during an interview with AFP at the commission's headquarters in Riyadh, on December 18, 2017. AFP / FAYEZ NURELDINE
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Saudi Arabia will begin issuing tourist visas in the first quarter of 2018, its top tourism official said, a first for the kingdom as it undergoes major economic and social reforms.The move to open up its tourism sector is a major shift for Saudi Arabia as powerful Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman seeks to radically overhaul the country's oil-dependent economy and shed its ultra-conservative image.There will be "guidelines" for the tourism sector, however.The kingdom, which takes legitimacy from the guardianship of Islam's holiest sites – as well as billions of dollars in revenues from annual Muslim pilgrimages – will not be lifting its total ban on alcohol.
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