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Bikini-clad women in Saudi Arabia? Yes, really…

A radical plan to transform part of the Saudi coastline into a beach resort for the international market could lead to more relaxed laws on beach clothing.

The Red Sea Project, a luxury resort to be built between the cities of Amlaj and al-Jawh, will be “governed by laws on par with international standards,” a statement by the Saudi Public Investment Fund [PIF] said.

The tourism development plan is a part of the Vision 2030 reform plan – devised by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman as a way to wean the country’s economy off oil and improve the local economy.

The country faces an uphill battle however, as the majority of tourists in the Gulf travel to the UAE, where relaxed laws on bikinis and alcohol allow for a more ‘liberal’ experience.

Saudi Arabia by contrast, has banned alcohol, enforces strict gender segregation and maintains strict regulations on how women can dress.

The investment fund is working to combat these negative images of the country by focusing on the region’s unspoilt and pristine natural beauty, which will reportedly be protected by strict environmental laws.

In a document detailing nine reasons why Saudi Arabia should become a tourism hotspot, the fund talks of “abundant coral reefs”, “dormant volcanoes” and other natural wonders that have remained mostly untouched by construction.

The Public Investment Fund, chaired by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, reportedly owns assets totalling about $183 billion, set to increase dramatically next year, following an IPO on a part of the state oil giant, Saudi Aramco.

The prince said more than half of the money raised from that sale will be reinvested in the Vision 2030 project to develop industries that are not connected to oil.

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