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With AlUla, Saudi Arabia is making a high-risk $1 trillion bet on tourism

A Structure Made of Dried Grass on Desert, AlUla, Al Madinah Province, Saudi Arabia

Mei Wang marveled at the sandstone vistas, lush palm trees, ancient tombs and five-star resorts. These images beckoned to the 30-year-old entrepreneur as she watched Divas Hit the Road, a Chinese travel show. So she set out with her mother, flying from Guangzhou to the ancient oasis town of AlUla in Saudi Arabia. In Arabic, AlUla means “glory,” and the kingdom ­envisions a lot for this historical region, which is the size of New Jersey. It will become one of the world’s great tourist attractions—in the words of Melanie de Souza, AlUla’s top marketing official, a destination for “luxe seekers, wanderlust nomads, intrepid voyagers and silver foxes.”

Along with developing resorts, shops, restaurants and a contemporary art museum with Paris’ Centre Pompidou, the Royal Commission for AlUla is overseeing tourist-friendly archaeological excavations of colossal tombs that date to the first century B.C.

AlUla is only one of the kingdom’s massive projects, and the progress so far raises questions about its lofty ­projections. Many of the newcomers Saudi Arabia hopes to attract are expected to live and work in NEOM, a futuristic enclave in Saudi Arabia’s northwestern corner. 

Read the full story at The Economic Times

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