RIYADH: Saudi Arabia has announced the launch of a massive tourism project that will turn 50 islands and a string of sites on the Red Sea coast into luxury resorts.
In a statement, the government said the destination will “set new standards for sustainable development and bring about the next generation of luxury travel to put Saudi Arabia on the international tourism map.”
With the hope that the resort will attract overseas visitors, the law which forces women to wear an abaya – a full-length robe – could be changed to allow women to wear bikinis instead of covering up their skin. While there’s no clear confirmation of this yet, a statement from the government said the resort will be “governed by laws on par with international standards”.
The plan is part of efforts to diversify the ultraconservative kingdom’s oil-dependent economy following a slump in energy prices.
It covers more than 180 kilometres (112 miles) on Saudi Arabia’s western coastline, stretching from Umm Lajj to Al-Wajh.
Initial investments will be provided by the Public Investment Fund before the project is opened to international investors, state news agency SPA reported.
Construction will begin in the third quarter of 2019 with a first phase that includes expanding a domestic airport and developing luxury hotels and housing, expected to be completed by the third quarter of 2022, it said.
Saudi Arabia aims to increase family spending on recreation and launch hundreds of recreation centres across the kingdom by 2020 as part of its Vision 2030 plan to reduce its dependence on oil.