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Saudi King Arrives for French Riviera Holiday With 1000-Strong Entourage

© AFP 2023 / FAYEZ NURELDINESaudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz (C) walks surrounded by security officers
Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz (C) walks surrounded by security officers - Sputnik International
Security preparations ahead of the arrival of King Salman of Saudi Arabia on the Cote d'Azur have infuriated residents, but the entourage he brings with him - made up of no fewer than 1000 people - promises to be a boon for the local economy.

Royal holidays mean royal expenses — and royal pains-in-the-neck.

Riviera hotels and other hospitality businesses have reason to celebrate the arrival of Salman and his crew: they're set to cash in big time on the Saudi king's three-week Riviera beach holiday. The monarch brings with him a royal escort of around 700 people, who will be housed in luxury hotels on the Cannes promenade.

What's more, hundreds of other Saudis, following the tradition of following the king on his vacation, will flood the southern French resorts over the next 21 days.

"These are people with great purchasing power which will pep up not only the luxury hotel industry but also the retail and tourism sectors of the town," said Michel Chevillon, the president of an association representing hotel managers in Cannes.

French President Francois Hollande, right, shakes hand with Saudi Arabia's Defense Minister Prince Mohammed Bin Salman prior to their meeting at the Elysee Palace in Paris. - Sputnik International
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Not everyone in the region is as jazzed about the Saudi king's visit, though, and he and his posse aren't the only ones who want to enjoy summer days on the coast's gorgeous Mediterranean beaches. Locals saw red as soon as they learned they'll be locked out from the popular kilometer-long stretch of public beach that lies beside the Saudi royal family's private villa between Antibes and Marseilles.

The coastguard has announced it won't let anyone come closer than 300 meters to the king's sanctuary.

To add insult to injury, the announcement that the Saudis would build an elevator from the beach to the villa, and the subsequent pouring of a huge slab of cement directly onto the sand, sent locals into a tailspin.

It took citizens only 8 days to gather 45,000 signatures on a petition against the "privatization" of the public beach.

"There are security reasons and perhaps compromises to be found, but as a general rule what revolts our citizens is that the law is different if you are rich than if you are poor," Gaullist politician Nicolas Dupont-Aignan told radio station France Inter.

"We're sick and tired of this messing around," one local woman told Agence France-Presse.

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