Sustainability | Renewable Energy

Sustainable Tourism in Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia: Aiming for Sustainability in Tourism, the Next Destination to Explore

By Marie Nieves


Once upon a time, Saudi Arabia was looked at as a remote, underdeveloped, Middle Eastern country with no real connection with the latest social, technological, or economic trends. In light of these facts, the progress this kingdom made over the last couple of decades seems even more impressive.

Faced with dwindling fossil fuel supplies, the Saudi dynasty invested tremendous resources and effort to rebrand itself as a powerhouse tourist destination, tech giant, and even a growing sports power. What’s even more important, all these developments, especially in the tourist sector, are based on sustainable and eco-friendly foundations, making a sharp turn from the previously oil-based economy.

Well, can green practices take root in the remote Middle Eastern deserts? Let us take a look at some of the most important Saudi projects to find out.

The goals of Saudi ecotourism

When we said Saudi Arabia is investing in its tourist sector we meant it since the Saudi dynasty plans to make this a primary branch of the kingdom’s economy. Last year, the number of foreign visitors rose to a stunning 100 million which far surpasses previous estimates which put this milestone somewhere by 2030.

What’s even more important is that all these efforts are fueled by several sustainable objectives:

Environmental advantage: Transferring revenue from tourism to ecological preservation.

Impact reduction: Efforts made to mitigate the impact of mass tourism with sustainable and renewable infrastructure like greater reliance on solar energy.

Lower dependence on oil: This should be achieved by increasing the tourism’s share in the country’s domestic product.

These goals are very noteworthy and if successfully implemented here, they can become a template for countries facing similar economic shifts. Now, let’s take a look at some of the projects that are at the forefront of this massive refocus.

The Red Sea project

The Red Sea coast was long seen as an underdeveloped piece of desert with no real infrastructure to support mass tourism, let alone sustainable features. Well, back in 2027, Saudi Arabia started a massive project spanning an archipelago of 90 islands scattered along the western coast of Saudi Arabia.

Its goal? Developing luxury resorts around one of the world’s yet untapped natural wonders, creating 70,000 new job positions, and pursuing the use of 100% clean energy. When the project is over, all hotels, resorts, and other leisure facilities should also aim for 100% carbon neutrality. Keeping in mind the natural wonders of the Red Sea coast, these massive investments may pay off in the long term.

Al Ula region

Sustainable Tourism In Saudi ArabiaAl Ula region is one of the most scenic, historical, and impressive regions of Saudi Arabia. Its new fame as the kingdom’s historical open air museum is by all means, well deserved. Home to the ancient Nabataean Kingdom and home to more than 110 tombs carved into stones, Al Ula is also riddled with stunning vistas, scenic villages, and impressive biodiversity. The Saudi government is working very hard to put this place on the global tourist radar and, what’s even more important, infuse this old region with modern sustainable worldviews. These efforts come in the form of long-term carbon neutrality and creating a green circle turning a piece of wild desert into a welcoming oasis.

Green Riyadh project

This is one of the most ambitious afforestation projects in the world, bordering with the Sci-Fi ideas of terraforming. Riyadh is a city trapped in the desert. The Saudi government wants to put a green smile on its face and make it more hospitable, healthier, and sustainable by planting over 10 million trees along the major streets, in parks, gardens, university campuses, and so on.

The selected acacia trees should be able to survive harsh local climates and produce tremendous social, and environmental impact, improving the biodiversity of the city in the process. Imagining Riyadh as a lush green city does sound nice.

NEOM project

Last but not least, we would like to point out that long-term sustainability campaigns need to be put on solid foundations. Without constant innovation, creative thinking, and deep infrastructural and resource overhauls, all superfluous efforts will have short breath. The goal of the NEOM project is to put this creative drive right into the core of the Saudi economy. Located in the Tabuk province, NEOM should present a megacity composed of small smart towns that should attract over 1 million citizens and feature research areas, enterprise zones, and leisure areas. So, the future of Saudi sustainability looks bright.

In conclusion

In the end, we can see that the efforts of Saudi Arabia to move its profile from a traditional oil economy to a sustainable eco-friendly tourist oasis are just as numerous as they are creative and versatile. What’s even more important is that Saudis are not simply importing ideas and technologies but rather ensuring innovations and new solutions will be able to blossom on the kingdom’s soil.

It should be mentioned, however, that these shifts are funded by the massive resources of the Arabian fossil fuel economy, so it’s really a question if such efforts could be emulated elsewhere. However, it will be interesting to track their outcomes.

Author bio: Marie Nieves is a passionate blogger with an eye for design, a flair for storytelling, and a love for culture. She contributes regularly to various blogs and online magazines, all while satisfying her wanderlust by exploring states and countries near and far.



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