Saudi Arabia announces tourism mega projects with local and global investors

Agreements, worth Dh99.2 billion, represent full value chain - spanning leisure, transport, real estate and hospitality

Saudi Arabia aims to increase tourism sector‘s contribution towards gross domestic product to up to 10 per cent by 2030, from just 3 per cent today. Bloomberg
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Saudi Arabia's General Investment Authority (SAGIA) and the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage (SCTH) announced agreements with regional and international investors worth 100 billion Saudi riyals (Dh99.2bn) on Friday, as the kingdom opened its doors to tourists from across the world.

“In Saudi Arabia, the market fundamentals are in place for a vibrant tourism industry and we believe that the private sector will play a crucial role in unlocking this potential,” said Ibrahim Al-Omar, Governor of SAGIA.

Saudi Arabia expects to increase international and domestic visits to 100 million a year by 2030, attracting significant foreign and domestic investment and creating a number of jobs. The kingdom aims to increase tourism sector‘s contribution towards gross domestic product to up to 10 per cent by 2030, from just 3 per cent today.

“Our role is to empower and enable domestic and international investors by identifying and developing new opportunities, fostering partnerships and shaping regulatory reforms,” said Mr Al-Omar.

SAGIA and SCTH have joined forces with leading players in different sectors, such as entertainment, lifestyle, retail, aviation, construction, hospitality and tourism.

SAGIA has signed an agreement, valued at 37.5bn Saudi riyals, with Canada-based Triple 5 to develop a series of mixed-use tourism, hospitality and entertainment destinations across the kingdom. It has also signed a memorandum of understanding, worth 20bn Saudi riyals, with Majid Al Futtaim for a mixed-use shopping and entertainment destination that will create 12,000 jobs and feature the region’s largest indoor ski slope and snow park.

India-based hotel booking portal OYO Rooms has also announced its intention to purchase ten or more upper-budget level and luxury hotel properties across the kingdom in a pact worth 4bn Saudi riyals.

The kingdom is set to announce details of a new visa regime at a gala event at the Unesco-listed Ad-Diriyah in Riyadh on Friday night. Specific details about the visas have so far been scarce, but it is expected that tourists could be eligible to enter the kingdom from this month.

“These exciting and wide-ranging agreements are only the beginning of the investment opportunities that will arise within Saudi Arabia,” said Ahmad Al Khateeb, Chairman of SCTH.

“We anticipate more businesses from around the world will establish operations within the Kingdom, as its unique attractions, culture and natural beauty become more widely appreciated,” he added.

SCTH has signed two MoUs with real estate developer Al Khozama to build Mayasem Project and the Harbour Project in Jeddah, along with other investment plans. These projects cover real estate, food and beverage investments, as well as facility management services and business development projects.

Saudi Arabian Airlines, also known as Saudia, has signed four MoUs with SCTH. One of them involved the launch of the first commercial flights to Neom - the flagship project of Saudi Arabia’s post-oil diversification plan known as Vision 2030 that seeks to reduce the kingdom's reliance on hydrocarbons.

In addition, different organisations including Alshaya Group, Shomoul, Radisson, Alrajhi Investment and Seera Group have made investment commitments collectively valued at 36.25bn Saudi riyals.

These investments come alongside a broad series of economic reforms which are enabling rapid growth in foreign investment in Saudi Arabia. The total number of foreign investor licences issued in the first half of 2019 was more than double the number issued during the same period a year before.