The Rig in Saudi Arabia might be the upcoming big thing in extreme tourism.
You see a blue horizon where water meets swaying stratus clouds as soon as you go outside onto your hotel balcony. The screams of rollercoaster riders as they careen up and around the platform of a multifunctional arena catch your attention below you. For a brief period, you fear the coaster and the Arabian Gulf below may clash, but then they suddenly appear on the opposite side of the arena platform. Jet skis zooming by and a helicopter's loud landing on the helipad across the platform make up the music to your holiday. Is it a water park or a cruise ship? No, it's an oil rig in the open sea.
We're talking about a large project named The Rig, but you'll have to wait a few years before you start planning your trip to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. It was planned to start building this 1.6 million square foot extreme adventure park in April 2022. This vacation spot only exists as grand photo concepts and project scopes at this time. Three hotels, 11 restaurants, an extreme sports facility, a multifunctional arena, a marina, a helipad, and a variety of offshore adventure activities are all depicted in project renderings. A big whale shark might be seen cruising outside glass-paneled walls while you enjoy a sumptuous lobster supper at an underwater restaurant. If you can dream it, you might be able to find it on The Rig, according to the planners.
The Public Investment Fund (PIF), the main investment arm of Saudi Arabia, includes the Rig. Saudi Arabia is currently the world's second-largest producer of petroleum. The Rig is a cutting-edge "tribute" to the nation's financial achievement in the oil-drilling business. Saudi Arabia, however, wants to dominate the entertainment sector. According to Saudi Vision 2030, which aims to make the country "an ambitious nation, construct a thriving economy and lively society," the proposed project is just one aspect of the country's bigger plan to create a booming tourism and entertainment industry and diversify its economy.
Only a few months had passed since Six Flags Qiddiya in Riyadh, which is slated to open in 2023 and feature the world's longest, fastest, and tallest rollercoaster, had its plans unveiled. When they said they wanted to become well-known in the tourism industry, they weren't kidding. PIF also stated that it is collaborating with cruise and development firms in an effort to attract residents, workers, and internal visitors to the location. PIF expects The Rig to draw 650,000 visitors annually by 2030. On a single offshore platform, there are rides, adventures, jobs, and economic variety! Although it seems enticing, is it actually feasible?
Anya Tyler, lead mechanical design engineer at Orlando, Florida-based Skyline Attractions, which creates and designs amusement attractions, asserts that engineers have reached a stage where they have mastered the art of designing and constructing some truly spectacular things. Theme park engineering is another area of expertise for Tyler. "Many cruise ships currently have rides and attractions that are designed to function while the vessel is moving across the ocean. I'd suppose engineering for attractions on an oil rig would be comparable to that and perhaps even simpler since it would be mostly stationary."
Transporting supplies, workers, and equipment to and from the offshore platform will be difficult. Engineers will need to be resourceful. There is less room for huge equipment like cranes and forklifts, as well as less flexibility to set up and prebuild in the neighborhood, according to Tyler. This isn't the first attempt in history to turn a former energy plant into a tourist destination. "Engineering is always a bit of a conundrum and comes up with the best solution with the existing limits." Wunderland Kalkar, located in western Germany, took the place of a nuclear power plant that was never able to start up due to disputes and protests during construction.
There is a fierce competition to attract clients by offering the biggest, fastest, or "only" version of something, according to Tyler, as themed entertainment becomes increasingly prevalent worldwide. The Rig is unquestionably the only tourist destination of its sort, but we won't know the ROI until they open their doors. "They're all marketable, but if you're going to spend the amount of money required to develop a new park or attraction, you need to know you will have a return on investment."
The maxim "if you build it, they will come" has long served as inspiration for theme park builders. Building The Rig is one thing, but attracting guests to the platform is a very different matter. What that means for marine life and the environment at large is unknown. According to a news release from PIF, "commitment to conserving the environment is a primary concern for the project." "To achieve this goal, The Rig will develop an organizational framework that observes and respects global best practices with regard to sustainability and conservation with a view to creating new global benchmarks around the continued development and preservation of the environment," the company's mission statement reads.
Although PIF hasn't talked much about how sustainability is actually used or its effects on the environment, it seems that designers have sustainability as a goal. We do know that getting to the offshore attraction will involve at least one aircraft and one boat voyage for international visitors. With 0.82 CO2e pounds of carbon emissions per passenger, airplanes are the worst offenders. The same amount of CO2 emissions from a one-way travel from London to New York would need to be absorbed annually by an acre of forest, which is how you can conceive of it.
A 90-minute boat voyage to The Rig from Dammam will cost you 0.07 pounds of CO2 equivalent on average per passenger. Alternately, you may travel on a cruise ship, which is infamous for its negative effects on air quality, garbage disposal, and the energy needed to run offshore facilities. That's only the beginning. Manufacturing of materials and transportation of equipment and supplies are required for the site's construction. Food and supply imports will need to travel a great distance to reach The Rig once it opens to customers.
The use of renewable energy sources and financial support for environmental initiatives help some theme parks, including Port Aventura World in Spain, become carbon-neutral. Tourists may therefore be able to enjoy entertainment and sustainability via careful planning and design. At this point in the project, there are more questions than there are answers regarding The Rig's environmental impact. Where there is a desire, there is a means to lessen one's carbon footprint while still offering the services that tourists demand and the environment need, according to studies in the medical sector. The Rig's creators and engineers undoubtedly have a conundrum on their hands, and it will be intriguing to observe how this project develops over the coming ten years. Tyler claims she would be curious to see what happens if it does.