You Can Now Party In Saudi Arabia — But Only If You Don’t Live There

Aug 12, 2017 at 7:20 AM ET

Saudi Arabia’s Prince Mohammed bin Salman just launched a new luxury tourism project on the country’s Red Sea coastline that none of the nation’s residents can visit.

The prince’s planned resort will be roughly 34,000 square kilometers, an area bigger than Belgium. The resort, which will span the country’s 50 untouched islands, will be available to foreigners only, and thus will be governed by laws “on par with international standards.” While both journalists and travel agencies are taking this to mean that traditional expectations on dress code and alcohol consumption might be more lax on the islands, it’s anyone’s guess at this point. But one of the government documents did refer to the project as a “semi-autonomous” area governed “by independent laws and a regulatory framework developed and managed by a private committee.” Tourists will either not require a visa or will be able to obtain one online.

The first phase of construction is expected to be completed by the fourth quarter of 2022. Currently, the tourism industry only generates 2.7 percent of Saudi Arabia’s GDP, the bulk of which caters to religious tourists and pilgrims.

Prince Salman’s reasoning behind bringing beachgoers to Saudi Arabia is to prepare the biggest Arab economy for the post-oil era. The goal is to attract 1 million western tourists annually by 2035.