Skift Take

Will Smith has visited Neom, a post card project of Saudi Arabia's tourism vision.

Will Smith is the latest celebrity to promote Saudi Arabia. Smith posted a video on Instagram Wednesday morning showing his recent visit to Neom, a $500 billion project Saudi Arabia is building and hoping to open by next year.

The post went out to Smith’s 64 million followers and came during his trip to the Kingdom where he also stopped at the Red Sea Film Festival in Jeddah to plug his upcoming movie.

Smith had also visited the country in March. At that time, he was in AlUla, an upmarket desert tourism location where the Camel Cup sporting event. As with Neom, the visit was full of professional photography.

Elsewhere in the region, Smith is a frequent visitor to Dubai. The emirate’s tourism authority has partnered with the actor on several occasions to promote sites such as the Burj Khalifa and a handful of its luxury hotels.

Westerners in the Kingdom

More Western celebrities have been heading to Saudi Arabia. NBA star Lebron James was in Saudi earlier this year, photographed touring the Diriyah Gate tourism project.

In May 2023, footballer Lionel Messi shared his own pics from Diriyah Gate. Marked as a paid partnership with Visit Saudi, the post has garnered around 17 million likes and more than 78,000 comments.

This post was one of many as part of obligations in partnership with Saudi Tourism, according to a report in the New York Times — a deal that could bring in $25 million over three years for him.

Visits such as these, and projects such as Neom, are all part of the country’s crown prince’s vision to turn Saudi into a tourism and leisure superpower by 2030. The conservative Gulf capital opened for tourism for the first time in 2019, going on to announce a string of ambitious leisure destinations ranging from a ski retreat atop a mountain to hotel projects in the desert to Sindalah Island, which opens within Neom next year.

Right now, Sindalah is being developed with 21 other Neom islands in the surrounding area. Mohammed Bin Salman’s other cherished Red Sea island projects include an archipelago development called, simply, “The Red Sea,” which will house 50 hotels by 2030, and Amaala, which will have 29 hotels.

Vision 2030 places significant emphasis on tourism, aiming for ambitious objectives such as ensuring tourism contributes 10% to the Saudi economy, attracting 150 million travelers annually, and generating employment for over 1.5 million individuals in the industry. Massive investments, totaling hundreds of billions of dollars, are dedicated to the development of “giga-projects” situated in deserts, mountains, and waterfronts, all expected to open in seven years’ time or sooner.

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Tags: neom, Saudi Tourism, Tourism news, will smith

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