Sports Aren’t the Only Way Saudi Arabia is Working to Improve Its Image

Hint: influencers are involved

Riyadh, seen from the air.
ekrem osmanoglu/Unsplash

By now, you’ve probably read a lot about Saudi Arabia’s investments in the world of sports. This has been especially prominent with the country’s Public Investment Fund backing the LIV Golf tour and purchasing the Premier League team Newcastle United. It’s also prompted the nation’s government to talk about their goals of hosting the Olympics one day.

But sportswashing isn’t the only way that the company is attempting to improve its public image. (Which is in need of improvement for some pretty horrific reasons.) As Eve Peyser reports in a new article for Air Mail, the country has enlisted the aid of online influencers to bolster its reputation and help make it more of a tourist destination.

Peyser notes that this effort appears to be a sizable one. “On Instagram, there are more than 150,000 posts with the tags #visitsaudi, #visitsaudiarabia, #welcometoarabia, and #explorearabia,” she writes — and goes on to cite some of the high-profile social media personalities who have visited the country on the country’s dime, in one case juxtaposing the hotel where they stayed with locations where atrocities have taken place in the last decade.

Using celebrities and online personalities to bolster a nation’s public image is nothing new. But in this case, there’s a sense of a country repeatedly using its wealth to cover up its more unsettling aspects — and with that wealth showing little sign of going away, it suggests that this charm offensive might just continue indefinitely.

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