Saudi Arabia turns to tourism for a reputation reboot

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The Future. Saudi Arabia hopes that exorbitant spending on cutting-edge construction projects will remake the country as the luxury travel destination of the Middle East. That’s a tall order. But by seemingly catering to young and wealthy Chinese, British, Indian, and Australian travelers, The Kingdom could become, well, a mecca for the experience economy.

Polished up
Saudi Arabia has been on a check-writing spree in its quest to attract 100 million foreign and domestic visitors by 2030, per Forbes.

  • Projects include a futuristic city for 600,000 people built around gaming (Qiddiya), a ski resort in the middle of the desert (Trojena), 50 resorts built across a 22-island archipelago (The Red Sea), and a $5 billion theme park built on an oil platform (The Rig).
  • The World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) estimates that the country has already spent $800 billion on the projects, which are set to create one million new jobs.
  • But that’s a reasonable investment when the WTTC believes that, by 2032, tourism in the country should generate $169 billion towards its GDP — over 17% of its entire economy.

The tourism infrastructure projects — most falling under the massive NEOM development in the country’s northwest — is part of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s Vision 2030 plan, which aims to remake The Kingdom’s economy (less reliance on oil) and gain international soft power (sports, filmmaking).

That’s pretty wild for a country that didn’t really allow international tourists as recently as 2016.

David Vendrell

Born and raised a stone’s-throw away from the Everglades, David left the Florida swamp for the California desert. Over-caffeinated, he stares at his computer too long either writing the TFP newsletter or screenplays. He is repped by Anonymous Content.


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