Saudi is pushing through with its array of ambitious developments. Its next giga-project that was just announced yesterday is already being dubbed the ‘Riviera of the Middle East,” or Côte d’Azur in its original name.
So what does Saudi have in store this time, and what can we expect from this noteworthy comparison?
The Riviera of the Middle East
The Public Investment Fund (PIF) announced the launch of Amaala, which “will become an uber-luxury destination on the north-western coast of Saudi Arabia. It aims to create an all-new concept for ultra-luxury tourism focusing on wellness, healthy living, and meditation. The new destination is a natural extension of the Mediterranean Sea, and dubbed the Riviera of the Middle East.”
Initially, the PIF will provide funding, they said in their statement. It will spearhead the development of Amaala into a bespoke hospitality experience located within the Prince Mohammed bin Salman Natural Reserve. “As the project progresses, attractive partnership and investment packages will be available for the private sector.”
According to the PIF, Amaala , like NEOM and The Red Sea Project, is part of the giga-projects investment portfolio, helping to establish a unique tourism ecosystem, supporting economic diversification and creating high-value job opportunities. In addition, PIF announced the appointment of veteran luxury hospitality and development executive Nicholas Naples as Chief Executive Officer of Amaala, who will lead development and operations for the destination.
Mr. Naples stated that “Amaala represents a unique and transformational luxury experience where full-fledged wellness tourism is integrated alongside a curated mix of arts, culture, and sports offerings that are individually tailored for the ultra-luxury lifestyle, including the availability of a fashion scene, healthy-living services, and year-round sea expeditions.”
Amaala will feature both hotels and private villas as well as a quaint retail village and an academy of the arts that fosters the growth and development of young artists from Saudi Arabia and the region. Cultural events, artistic performances and related conferences will bring international visitation to the region where visitors can partake in a wide array of unique and personalized holiday experiences. Marinas and a yacht club will excite yachting enthusiasts, attract boutique luxury cruises. The retail establishments will boast an eclectic mix of galleries, ateliers, artisan workshops and bespoke retail outlets supported by a wide range of international and local signature dining venues.
Amaala and the other giga-project are part of Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman’s Vision 2030 plan, which seeks to diversify the country’s economy away from oil while boosting other sectors such as tourism.
If Saudi’s project goes through, what could we expect?
Dubbing a project the Riviera of the Middle East is no small feat. The famed French region is known as an entertainment hub, an arts hub, as well as a touristic hotspot. It boasts sea side resorts, historic villages, casinos, and even museums for the historically inclined.
The annual Cannes Film Festival is held in nearby Cannes, which makes the French Riviera an even more tempting destination. Saudi made its first ever showing to the international festival this year, and has been holding its own Saudi Film Festival in recent years.
Could Amaala be known for similar reasons? It’s possible, but it won’t be easy. The Riviera has several centuries of culture and history behind it. Currently, Saudi has been sparing no expense in its ambitious developments, hoping to make a name for itself.
The General Entertainment Authority (GEA) chief, Ahmad Al-Khatib, told reporters in February that the kingdom will invest $64 billion in its entertainment sector over the coming decade. This significant sum is indicative of a dedication by the Saudi government to promote their country as an entertainment and tourism hub.
Furthermore, the General Sports Authority (GSA) announced earlier this week the creation of an entirely new visitor visa, one that hopes to expedite the application process for fans of live sport, music and culture coming to visit.
The new visa process platform known as ‘Sharek’ will be introduced for the inaugural Saudia Ad Diriyah E-Prix, the opening race to the 2018/19 ABB FIA Formula E Championship being staged at a UNESCO heritage site on the outskirts of Riyadh on 15th December 2018.