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Saudi’s 50 Red Sea virgin islands to seek international partners this summer

Tourism in Saudi used to be an afterthought and tourists mostly visited the kingdom for pilgrimage purposes.

That is about to change with the Red Sea Project.

Plans to build resorts on about 50 islands off the Kingdom’s Red Sea Coast are underway by Saudi sovereign wealth fund the Public Investment Fund (PIF).

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Red Sea: A touristic destination

The Red Sea Project is a vast tourist development part of an ambitious strategy to open the economy and ease social restriction.

The project will be built between the cities of Amlaj and al-Wajh, will offer a nature reserve, heritage sites and diving in coral reefs.

It will break ground in the third quarter of 2019 and complete its first phase in late 2022, Press Reader reported.

The Red Sea Development Co will create a special economic zone with its own regulatory framework, visas on entry, relaxed social norms, and improved business regulations.

This will enable it to develop and deliver a world-class international tourist destination, Press Reader explained.

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A standalone company

Press Reader reported the country’s sovereign wealth fund saying that the project has been registered as a standalone company, a closed joint-stock company,  wholly owned by PIF.

John Pagano, the former managing director for development, of the Canary Wharf Group in London, has been appointed as CEO.

The country’s PIF, would make initial investments and seek partnerships with international investors and hoteliers in July, according to PIF.

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More is yet to come

According to Reuters, PIF has two other major initiatives underway.

The first is NEOM; a $500 billion business and industrial zone extending into Egypt and Jordan.

The second is Qiddiya; a multi-billion dollar entertainment resort that will be 2-1/2 times the size of Disney World.

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The fund: $183 billion

The fund, chaired by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, is believed to have assets totaling about $183 billion and is set to receive a cash injection next year after the share sale of state oil giant Saudi Aramco, said Reuters.

The crown prince has said more than half of the proceeds from that sale would be reinvested domestically to develop promising Saudi non-oil sectors.