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Richard Branson to invest in Saudi Arabia tourism project

Sir Richard Branson looks to turn 50 islands off the coast of Saudi Arabia into a tourist hotspot

Shafi Musaddique
Monday 02 October 2017 16:36 BST
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Sir Richard Branson becomes the first non-Saudi investor to commit to the Red Sea Project
Sir Richard Branson becomes the first non-Saudi investor to commit to the Red Sea Project (Getty)

Richard Branson has committed to investing in a luxury tourism project in Saudi Arabia, aiming to transform a stretch of the Red Sea coast into a hub for high-end holidaymakers.

The Virgin boss is the first non-Saudi investor to commit to the Red Sea Project and nearby Al Ola/Madain Saleh site for the development of tourism, Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Culture and Information said in a statement on Sunday.

It said that the Red Sea Project is a coastal lagoon of 50 untouched islands along more than 150 km of unpopulated coastline.

The area is set to become a destination for both local and international tourists, comprising luxury resorts, underwater nature reserves and dormant volcanos, it said.

“This is an incredibly exciting time in the country’s history and I’ve always felt that there’s nothing like getting a first-hand impression,” Sir Richard was quoted as saying in the ministry’s statement.

“It is so exciting that this side of Saudi Arabia is starting to come to light. It will be wonderful to attract visitors to marvel at the beauty of Saudi Arabia, and get to know its people too,” he added.

On his personal blog, he said that the project could create as many as 35,000 jobs in the area.

As part of a massive reform programme called Vision 2030, Saudi Arabia has for some time been trying to diversify its economy away from oil and expand its capital markets.

Some international institutions were given permission to start investing directly in Saudi stocks in 2015 and restrictions have eased since then.

Last week, Mohammed Abdullah Elkuwaiz, chairman of the country’s Capital Market Authority, said that it plans to further open up its stock market to foreign investors later this year in a bid to become an international capital markets player.

Sir Richard last praised the country’s decision to give women the right to drive calling it a “welcome sign of progress”.

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