Saudi Arabia starts construction on Red Sea tourism project

The multibillion-dollar development spans about 50 islands on the Red Sea coast

Participants watch a movie advertising Saudi's Red Sea project on the sidelines of the three-day Future Investment Initiatives conference in Riyadh, on October 25, 2017. 
Saudi Arabia, smarting from a years-long oil crunch, said it aims to nearly double the assets of its Public Investment Fund by 2020 through launching a programme of investment initiatives.  / AFP PHOTO / FAYEZ NURELDINE

Saudi Arabia has started construction work on its mega Red Sea Project that includes a nature reserve and heritage sites and spans about 50 islands as the kingdom seeks to boost the contribution of tourism sector to the economy.

The base camp is set up in the coastal area near the southern end of the 28,000 square kilometre project, which is the first of numerous enabling works to be carried out this year to provide essential infrastructure, The Red Sea Development Company (TRSDC) said on its website on Wednesday.

“This is an important milestone for Red Sea Project and takes us another step closer to our goal of creating a truly exquisite tourism destination on the Red Sea coast,” said John Pagano, chief executive of TRSDC.

“The remote nature of the site, which is an important part of its appeal as a destination, creates logistical challenges for the support of large-scale development and the base camp is an essential first step.”

The enabling works include temporary roads, bridge, jetties, utilities, workforce accommodation and a management village, which will support the development of tourism project. Construction of workers’ accommodation, which will house up to 10,000 people, will begin in the second quarter of this year, TRSDC said.

Saudi Arabia, the biggest Arab economy and the world’s top oil exporter, relies heavily on the sale hydrocarbons for revenues. the kingdom is currently going through an economic overhaul to develop its non-oil economy including tourism sector as it seeks to attract international tourists and increase domestic spending on attractions within the kingdom.

Public Investment Fund, the kingdom's main investment arm that holds stakes in local and international companies such as electric car maker Tesla, is central to Riyadh's economic diversification agenda. The fund, which manages $250 billion of assets, is building Neom, a $500bn (Dh1.8 trillion) futuristic business and industrial city, which extends into Egypt and Jordan. It is also behind an Qiddiya entertainment development near Riyadh that will include high-end theme parks, motor sport facilities and a safari park. American theme park corporation Six Flags has already agreed a deal  to build a branded compound at the complex.