As part of its ambitious Vision 2030, Saudi Arabia is undergoing various economic and social reforms in a bid to become a more tourist-friendly destination. And the kingdom certainly won over one of its most recent visitors – Hollywood actor Katie Holmes. The Batman Begins star visited the Middle Eastern nation in May as part of Saudi’s SAR 50 billion initiative to promote entertainment, health, sports and education, with British actor Idris Elba and retired French footballer Thierry Henry also joining the visit.
Holmes shared several snaps with her 1.4 million Instagram followers during her trip to Riyadh, marveling at the Kingdom’s architecture in one photograph, and revealing she was “so grateful for this amazing and inspiring time” in another. During her visit, which included an event celebrating the launch of the new initiative, the mother of one also had lunch with Princess Reema Bint Bandar Al Saud, along with Elba and Henry. However, the Dawson’s Creek star has just opened up about her trip with Travel + Leisure, telling the publication the country was “so beautiful”. “It was a long trip, but I really enjoyed it. I love the women that I met.” The actor also added: “It was really inspiring to see these women enjoying the new freedoms they now have and there is a sense of creativity that is happening.”
For travelers hoping to follow in Holmes’s footsteps, Saudi Arabia has revealed plans to issue tourist visas for the Kingdom this year. A review of the visa regulations was completed by the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage in April, Arab News reports, with the proposal then submitted to government authorities for approval. The Kingdom has previously touted tourism as a key driver of Vision 2030, a post-oil blueprint for Saudi helmed by Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman. The plan will allow Saudi Arabia to move towards a more modernized, tourist-friendly future, with aims such as increasing the percentage of women in the nation’s workforce from 22% to 30%. As of this year, females have also been allowed to attend sporting matches in select stadiums, and in May Saudi Arabia passed a law to criminalize sexual harassment.