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Can Saudi Arabia Build a Successful Tourism Industry?

Oct 31, 2018 | 09:00 GMT
A journalist takes a picture of a tomb at Madain Saleh, a UNESCO World Heritage site, in Saudi Arabia's northwest on March 31, 2018.

A journalist takes a picture of a tomb at Madain Saleh, a UNESCO World Heritage site, in Saudi Arabia's northwest on March 31, 2018. The area is rich in archaeological remnants and seen as a jewel in the crown of future Saudi attractions as the austere kingdom works to improve tourism and open up one of the last frontiers of global tourism.

(FAYEZ NURELDINE/AFP/Getty Images)

Saudi Arabia wants to lure tourists -- and their currency -- to the kingdom. The effort is another element of the country's ambitious Vision 2030 reform plan and part of its strategy to bring in more foreign direct investment. The kingdom already hosts millions of pilgrims each year for the Muslim pilgrimage, or hajj, to the cities of Mecca and Medina. But entering the secular tourist trade will be a new experience for the Saudi government, which has previously reserved most of its visas for foreigners coming either to do business or make their hajj. Already the kingdom is liberalizing its visas for tourists and setting up infrastructure with cinemas, amusement parks, museums and other entertainment venues. But that's the easy part. Reforming a poor international reputation, luring middle-class tourists away from regional competitors, convincing pilgrims to visit new tourist attractions and grappling with the cultural impact of an influx...

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