Saudi Ara­bia to launch Red Sea tourism re­sorts

Kuwait Times - - FRONT PAGE -

Saudi Ara­bia plans to build a "semi-au­ton­o­mous" visafree travel des­ti­na­tion along its north­west­ern Red Sea coast where re­stric­tions on women's dress, gen­der se­gre­ga­tion and other con­ser­va­tive norms could be waived. The Red Sea project will in­clude div­ing at­trac­tions and a na­ture re­serve, with some ar­eas re­sem­bling the lux­ury hotels, is­lands and la­goons of the Mal­dives. The Saudi Com­mis­sion for Tourism did not im­me­di­ately re­spond to an As­so­ci­ated Press re­quest for more de­tails on the rules that will gov­ern tourists at the Red Sea re­sort.

The coun­try's Pub­lic In­vest­ment Fund (PIF) said Mon­day it will pro­vide the seed cap­i­tal to de­velop the re­sort area, ex­plain­ing that the new "semi-au­ton­o­mous area will be gov­erned by laws on par with in­ter­na­tional stan­dards." The fund said the project will at­tract lead­ing names in ho­tel to "bring about the next-gen­er­a­tion of tourism in a way that will open" Saudi Ara­bia's Red Sea coast­line to tourists from around the world. The sovereign wealth fund de­vel­op­ing the project is headed by Crown Prince Mo­hammed bin Sal­man, the young prince who in June was named heir to the throne by his fa­ther King Sal­man. The prince is over­see­ing a dra­matic over­haul of the econ­omy to lessen its de­pen­dence on oil ex­ports for rev­enue.

Tourism is a key part of the prince's Vi­sion 2030 plan. The plan aims to di­ver­sify and mod­ern­ize Saudi so­ci­ety and the econ­omy, and in­cludes plans for keep­ing some of the Saudi money spent abroad each year in the coun­try. It also calls for rais­ing tourism rev­enues out­side of the Is­lamic pil­grim­age to Mecca, which Saudi Ara­bia over­sees. The Red Sea project aims to specif­i­cally gen­er­ate 15 bil­lion Saudi riyals ($4 bil­lion) an­nu­ally to Saudi Ara­bia's econ­omy and cre­ate 35,000 jobs. Al­ready, the ul­tra­con­ser­va­tive coun­try has opened its doors to more en­ter­tain­ment in or­der to gen­er­ate more lo­cal spend­ing and ap­pease the coun­try's bur­geon­ing youth pop­u­la­tion. The PIF is the main in­vestor in a Six Flags theme park that is ex­pected to be built in a new en­ter­tain­ment city that will be the first of its kind in the king­dom.

The fund said the Red Sea project will be built along 125 miles (200 kilo­me­ters) of coast­line and is tai­lored to­ward global lux­ury trav­el­ers and those seek­ing well­ness travel, a genre of tourism as­so­ci­ated with per­sonal well-being and health. Among the at­trac­tions will be pro­tected co­ral reefs, dor­mant vol­ca­noes, a na­ture re­serve in­hab­ited by rare wildlife like Ara­bian leop­ards and fal­cons, and trips to Saudi Ara­bia's an­cient ruins of Mada'in Saleh, clas­si­fied as a UNESCO World Her­itage site. Also on of­fer will be parachut­ing, trekking and rock climb­ing. — AP

This file photo shows a girl plays with her kite as vis­i­tors walk on the Red Sea beach, in Jid­dah, Saudi Ara­bia.

— AP pho­tos

This file photo shows a boy flies a kite on the Red Sea beach near the land­mark Jid­dah foun­tain, in Jid­dah, Saudi Ara­bia.

This file photo shows two veiled Saudi women en­joy the Red Sea at night, in Jid­dah, Saudi Ara­bia.

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