Saudi Arabia's PIF establishes tourism investment company

Saudi Tourism Investment Company, or Asfar, will invest in new tourism projects and develop destinations in cities across the kingdom

Hot air balloons flying over the Unesco World Heritage Site of AlUla. Photo: Consulum
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Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund has established Saudi Tourism Investment Company, or Asfar, to support the growth of the kingdom’s ​​tourism sector.

The company will invest in new tourism projects and develop destinations with hospitality, tourist attractions, retail, and food and beverage offerings in cities across Saudi Arabia, the Arab world’s biggest economy, the PIF said in a statement on Thursday.

Besides offering co-investment opportunities to the private sector, Asfar will aim to create a supportive environment for local suppliers, contractors, and small and medium-sized enterprises to develop tourism projects.

It aims to create a competitive environment that will boost the “variety and quality of the hospitality and tourism offering”.

“The creation of the company is in line with PIF’s strategy to create opportunities in the tourism sector and reinforce strategic partnership opportunities with the private sector,” Mishary Alibraheem, head of entertainment, leisure and sport sector in Middle East and North Africa investments at PIF, said.

“Asfar will activate the role that Saudi Arabia’s cities play in supporting the national economy.

“It will enable each city to make the most of its unique tourism offering, further diversifying and enriching the tourism and entertainment experience in Saudi Arabia.”

Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is implementing social reforms alongside the economic agenda to help modernise the kingdom, including holding music concerts, opening cinemas and allowing women to drive.

The kingdom's economy, which expanded 8.7 per cent last year, grew by 3.8 per cent in the first quarter on an annual basis, boosted by growth in the non-oil sector.

One of the world’s largest sovereign wealth funds, the PIF is at the centre of the Saudi Vision 2030 initiative to diversify the country’s economy from hydrocarbons.

Under the initiative, the kingdom is developing non-oil sectors such as entertainment, culture and sports to create jobs, boost quality of life and attract highly skilled talent and tourists.

Earlier this year, the PIF-owned AlUla Development Company launched operations with the aim of turning the city into a global tourism destination in Saudi Arabia. The company plans to deliver hospitality, residential, retail and infrastructure projects as part of the tourism push.

Saudi Entertainment Ventures (Seven), a wholly owned unit of the PIF, said in November that it plans to invest 50 billion Saudi riyals ($13.3 billion) to develop 21 integrated entertainment destinations in 14 cities in the kingdom.

Asfar intends to attract domestic and international tourists to a large number of untapped destinations across the country and contribute to the national target of attracting 100 million visitors per year by 2030, the PIF said.

The wealth fund owns various companies that aim to develop tourism destinations across the country. These include Aseer Investment Company, which aims to transform Aseer into a year-round tourism destination, and Saudi Downtown Company that is mandated to build and develop downtown areas within Saudi Arabia.

Updated: July 27, 2023, 5:57 PM