Plans to Tap Massive Tourism Potential for Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea Unveiled

Saudi Arabia wants to turn hundreds of miles of its Red Sea coastline into a global tourism destination, according to an announcement by the government’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) and reports.

The development will include “50 islands and 34,000 square kilometers — an area bigger than Belgium — between the cities of Umluj and Al Wajh to attract ‘luxury travelers from around the globe,’” according to an official statement sent to Bloomberg on Tuesday.

The development will be governed by laws “on par with international standards,” Bloomberg reports.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Vision 2030 promotes a model for a “healthy, engaged, and vibrant society” as part of its economic and social reform plans. A key element of Vision 2030 is the development of Saudi Arabia’s untapped tourism potential. From rich heritage sites to largely untouched coastline on the Red Sea, the Kingdom has yet to fully build its tourism sector, despite hosting the largest annual human migration in the Hajj pilgrimage. On that front, the Kingdom has invested billions to provide a safe, secure, and fulfilling experience for visitors around the globe.

A graphic released by a verified twitter handle for the project notes that Phase I of the project will consist of the development of transportation services, hotels and luxury units, work on airports, seaports, and infrastructure.

The PIF will seed initial investments into the developments that allow for “partnerships with top-tier global companies,” the graphic said.

Included in the ultimate development of the project will be adventure destinations like adventures on and off dormant volcanos, stunning coral reefs and centers for entertainment, wellness, and relaxation.

As Bloomberg notes, questions are likely to be raised over how acceptable the plan is to the kingdom’s influential religious establishment. It is not known if the development of the resorts to “international standards” will permit alcohol consumption by visitors or revealing beach clothing.

“Tourists will either not require a visa or will be able to obtain one online,” Bloomberg reports. “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 project aims to boost local tourism by SAR15bn ($4bn) a year, provide 35,000 jobs and welcome one million visitors annually, the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) said. Ground will be broken for the development in Q3 2019, with its first phase due for completion in Q4 2022.