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Airports and Saudi Arabia’s new resort: can ‘NEOM’ challenge Dubai?

Premium Analysis

In early Feb-2021 arty television adverts began to appear in the UK and other countries extolling the virtues of what seemed at first glance to be a new tourist resort: NEOM (‘New Future’), in the Middle East.

Those adverts were backed up by extensive advertising of Saudi Arabia on social media as a new and interesting tourist destination.

Desperate for new vacation opportunities (indeed – any such opportunities), those users who followed up the Internet link to ‘whatistheline.com’ found a much more comprehensive proposal – a megacity under construction in the northwest of Saudi Arabia, one that seeks to place the nation as a globally important country and diminish its reliance on oil. In fact, it will be run entirely on alternative energy.

In the first instance, two questions arise.

Firstly, can NEOM challenge Dubai as the principal regional centre? And secondly, just how easy or difficult will it be to travel and stay there, given the fact that Saudi Arabia has hitherto hardly been ‘open for business’ to the rest of the world?

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