Saudi Ara­bia un­veils plans to draw tourists to Red Sea beaches

Muscat Daily - - NATION -

Dubai, UAE - Saudi Ara­bia wants to turn hun­dreds of kilo­me­tres of its Red Sea coast­line into a global tourism des­ti­na­tion gov­erned by laws ‘on par with in­ter­na­tional stan­dards’ as part of its plan to trans­form the econ­omy and re­duce its reliance on oil.

The project will cover 50 is­lands and 34,000sqkm - an area bigger than Bel­gium -- be­tween the cities of Um­luj and Al Wajh to at­tract ‘lux­ury trav­ellers from around the globe’, ac­cord­ing to an of­fi­cial state­ment sent to Bloomberg on Tues­day. It will be de­vel­oped by the king­dom’s sov­er­eign wealth fund, with the first work ex­pected in two years.

Bring­ing Sun-seek­ers to Saudi beaches could trans­form a tourism in­dus­try that re­lies al­most solely on pil­grims vis­it­ing holy shrines in Mecca and Me­d­ina. But while the an­nounce­ment em­pha­sised the eco­nomic ben­e­fits, past mega-projects to di­ver­sify the econ­omy have strug­gled to get off the ground, and ques­tions are likely to be raised over how ac­cept­able the plan is to the king­dom’s in­flu­en­tial re­li­gious es­tab­lish­ment.

Tourists will ei­ther not re­quire a visa or will be able to ob­tain one on­line. One of the doc­u­ments re­ferred to the project as a ‘semi-au­ton­o­mous’ area gov­erned ‘by in­de­pen­dent laws and a reg­u­la­tory frame­work de­vel­oped and man­aged by a pri­vate com­mit­tee’, a sign that it could ease strict rules ap­plied else­where in Saudi Ara­bia.

The proposal is part of Crown Prince Mo­hammed bin Sal­man’s blueprint to pre­pare the big­gest Arab econ­omy for the post-oil era.

(Bloomberg)

A UNESCO World Her­itage Site in Saudi Ara­bia

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