Would You Take a Luxury Vacation to Saudi Arabia?

Keep in mind: It bans alcohol, requires women to wear full-length robes
By Michael Harthorne,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 2, 2017 7:24 PM CDT
A boy flies a kite on a Red Sea beach near the Jiddah fountain in Saudi Arabia. The country is planning to build a luxury travel destination along its Red Sea coast to attract foreign tourists.   (AP Photo/Amr Nabil, File)

(Newser) – Saudi Arabia is making a play to put itself on the "international tourism map," the Telegraph reports. According to Bloomberg, the country has announced plans to build luxury resorts on more than 13,000 square miles of Red Sea coastline, including "50 untouched natural islands." The project—which the BBC reports is slated to begin construction in 2019 and be completed three years later—is part of Prince Mohammed bin Salman's efforts to make Saudi Arabia's economy less reliant on oil. An official statement says the project wants to attract "luxury travelers from around the globe," and the goal is for the resorts to host 1 million visitors per year by 2035.

But it remains to be seen if foreign tourists will flock to Saudi Arabia—where alcohol, movie theaters, and plays are banned, women are required to wear full-length robes in public, and there are limits on men and women mixing. Officials say the resorts will comprise a "semi-autonomous" area that will have laws "on par with international standards." It's unclear exactly which laws will be relaxed at the resorts or how Saudi Arabia's religious leaders will react to the increased freedoms. “If you can’t change restrictions on alcohol and dress, that market disappears,” one expert tells Bloomberg. (Read more Saudi Arabia stories.)

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