As Saudi Arabia continues its drive to attract tourists, CNN reported that the authorities in the country appear to be reaching out to a particularly lucrative section of the market of LGBTQ travelers.
The website of the Saudi Tourism Authority (STA) seems to have had its Q&A section updated to state that gay visitors are welcome in the kingdom.
“Everyone is welcome to visit Saudi Arabia and visitors are not asked to disclose such personal details,” is the website’s response to the question on its FAQ page: “Are LGBT visitors welcome to visit Saudi Arabia?”
A spokesperson for the STA told CNN that the policy had previously been in place, but an archived version of the website on March 14, 2023 and before did not have the question and answer on the page.
Same-sex sexual activity is an offense in Saudi Arabia, according to Human Rights Watch.
According to the Human Dignity Trust, which campaigns for the rights of LGBT people around the world, trans people can also face prosecution in Saudi, with “substantial evidence of the law being enforced” and “consistent reports of discrimination and violence” against LGBTQ people.
LGBTQ+ travelers are a lucrative market, according to Darren Burn, CEO of Out Of Office, a luxury travel planning service for the community, and of Travel Gay, the world’s largest LGBTQ+ travel platform. “Research shows they spend more money in a destination than heterosexual couples, and tend to travel more times a year,” he told CNN.
Burn told CNN that destinations such as the Maldives and Dubai, where homosexuality is a criminal offense, are popular, but without more assurances from the authorities, Saudi Arabia could be a tougher sell.