The Royal Commission for AlUla (RCU) and the World Bank have signed a new long-term strategic partnership to support and enable the sustainable regeneration of the kingdom's Unesco-listed region to benefit the economy and community.
Under the one-year renewable partnership, the RCU and specialists from the World Bank will identify and develop heritage and tourism-focused small and medium enterprise operations and spur the area's transformation into a tourism and investment centre.
“Ensuring the sustainability of RCU’s AlUla project is essential to its long-term success and the county’s transformation into a business, investment, and tourism focal point for the region,” said Moataz Kurdi, chief county operations officer of the RCU.
“The World Bank is a powerful figure in international sustainable development initiatives and a key colleague alongside [the] RCU and [Saudi Arabia's] established global partners.”
The RCU was established in 2017 to preserve and develop AlUla, in line with the heritage and preservation priorities of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 programme.
Tourism accounts for 10.4 per cent of the global gross domestic product, supports one in 10 jobs — with more than half being roles for women, represents 7 per cent of total world trade and generates 30 per cent of the world's export in trade, according to the World Bank.
“The Saudi tourism sector has significant potential to drive sustainable growth, economic diversification and job creation for [Saudi Arabia],” said Issam Abousleiman, World Bank country director responsible for the GCC region.
“As such, the Royal Commission for AlUla and the World Bank’s partnership comes at a strategic time to support this agenda.”
About $36.8 billion was injected into Saudi Arabia's travel and tourism sector last year, making it the third largest investment among 185 countries, according to the World Travel & Tourism Council.
Travel and tourism contributed $51.5 billion to the kingdom's economy last year, and account for 6.5 per cent of GDP, the council's data shows.
Last month, the RCU signed agreements with information technology company Aecom and a French consortium comprising Egis, Assystem and Setec that will focus on developing arts and culture, hospitality, community development, and infrastructure in AlUla over three stages until 2035 to hasten the regeneration of the historic city.
AlUla is expected to contribute about 120 billion riyals ($31.9 billion) to Saudi Arabia’s economy.
The RCU forecasts that the population of the area will triple to 130,000 by 2035, generating about 38,000 new jobs.