Saudi Arabia has taken a powerful new step towards diversifying its economy away from oil.
The Red Sea Project shows a breadth of ambition to build a center of economic investment, coupled with originality unseen on this scale anywhere else in the world.
Rather than serving only as a commercial center, the project also doubles up as a new tourist development. Involving more than environmental responsibility, it looks to develop a truly sustainable resort and conservation center.
The project is opening its doors to a new kind of investment, one with sustainable environmental principles built into its infrastructure, including an aim to power the region using clean and novel green hydrogen fuel.
I recently had the opportunity to experience the Red Sea Project for myself via a cruise, exploring Ras Al-Abyad and Sindalah, two of the 50 islands that the Kingdom is developing. It was stunning to see something so beautiful right on my doorstep in the Middle East, and it inspired me to take in the scope of the project and its investment possibilities.
The Kingdom has been working under the radar to create the groundbreaking tourist investment hub. All of this is happening within an area of about 26,500 km in the Tabuk region on the coast of the Red Sea. It is strategically located in the middle of three continents, making it easily reachable for 70 percent of the world’s population.
The Saudi Ministry of Tourism has crafted something truly unique, with the expectation that it will attract a wide range of investors from around the world. The project uses all the natural resources the country has to offer, while still preserving the Kingdom’s history, culture and Islamic traditions.
This includes a system of protected areas for wildlife, such as the Sindalah Marine Sanctuary, which returns endangered species to their natural habitats and maintains the marine and coastal environment. While some hunting is permitted, it is strictly regulated and controlled. Not only is there a focus on the wildlife aspect of environmental conservation, but there has been much thought given to other natural resources, too.
The local area and its infrastructure are carbon neutral, water efficient and use clean fuel in the form of green hydrogen to reduce waste and pollution. It looks like Saudi Arabia is not only inviting the world to come and enjoy these hidden natural delights, but is also creating a leading sustainable development, raising environmental awareness among visitors and setting a global standard for all tourist resorts in the future. This is a boon for investors, the first of its kind in the Middle East.
The project is an exciting, new way to boost the economy of the region overall. It is part of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030, with ambitions for the resort to employ 35,000 people directly, with another 35,000 jobs backed through supporting industries and local businesses. Not only is there vast infrastructure to be designed, engineered, built, maintained and kept clean, workers must travel, eat and buy clothes and supplies. All of this require jobs and businesses, even before tourists arrive expecting tour guides, top-class restaurants and hotels.
Nature conservation areas attract scientists and conversation groups for study and research, too. The possibilities that the project provides are endless. It is estimated that it will boost the Saudi economy by SR22 billion ($5.8 billion).
The Ministry of Tourism has taken the natural gifts of this beautiful country and fused them with its authentic, welcoming and generous people and their ancient history and culture, to show the world the beautiful, bright side of Saudi Arabia. And hopefully in doing so, they can create balanced and sustainable development that achieves economic diversity, social enrichment, job opportunities and environmental preservation.
The Red Sea Project is an incredible idea that is already breathtaking to see in its infancy. Saudi Arabia is working towards making it the gold standard of investment and tourism. It is a powerful step in the right direction towards economic diversification and a revolutionary new start.
Dr. Bashayer Al-Majed is a professor of law at Kuwait University and a strong believer in constitutional rights. She works to inspire the next generation of lawmakers and empower women in the Middle East. She is interested in legal economic policymaking and solutions to diversifying the economy away from oil.