The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is mulling building a visa-free travel destination, which would be ‘semi-autonomous’, along its Red Sea coast where restrictions could be waived on what women wear, segregation on a gender basis and other conventional rules.
A Red Sea project is being planned where diving attractions and a nature reserve, on the lines of the luxury hotels, lagoons and islands of the Maldives, would be built.
The Arab country’s PIF (Public Investment Fund) was quoted by Associated Press said on 31 July that the seed capital would be provided by it to develop the resort area, stating that the new semi-autonomous area would be ruled by laws equivalent to international standards. The project would attract leading hotel chains to draw the next-generation of tourism in a manner that would welcome tourists from across the globe to the Red Sea coastline of the country.
Heading the sovereign wealth fund, which is developing the project, is Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, named as the heir to the throne of the Kingdom by his father, King Salman, in June this year. The prince is monitoring a dramatic revamp of the economy to decrease its dependence on revenue from oil exports.
Tourism is said to be a crucial component of the Vision 2030 plan of the prince. The plan aims to broaden and modernise society and the economy of Saudi Arabia and also is planning to keep some Saudi money spent overseas each year in the country. It is also looking to raise tourism revenues outside of Mecca, which attracts millions of Muslim tourists every year – a project managed by the country.
Saudi Arabia is looking to generate SAR15 billion ($4 billion) from the Red Sea project alone each year for its economy and to create 35,000 jobs. To be built along 200km of coastline, the Red Sea project would be oriented towards global luxury travellers and wellness tourists, according to the fund.
Other attractions that the Arab country is planning are trips to ancient ruins of Mada’in Saleh, a UNESCO World Heritage site, dormant volcanoes, protected coral reefs, a nature reserve inhabited rare wildlife projects, besides trekking, parachuting and rock climbing.
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