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How Saudi Arabia’s ‘Mega Projects’ could be the future for tourism

Posted on 12/03/2021

Vision 2030 is a bold yet achievable blueprint for Saudi Arabia, an ambitious nation, which expresses the kingdom’s long-term goals and aspirations towards a new phase of development which aims to create a vibrant and thriving society and economy, whilst moving away from oil.

A group of ‘mega projects’ (large, government-funded initiatives designed to diversify the economy) look set to drive growth and progress in the coming years, across the Saudi Arabian hospitality industry.

The Red Sea Development is close to fruition

This project is set to be developed over 28,000 square km on the west coast, and includes an archipelago of more than 90 islands. It’s expected to feature a mix of ancient cultural and heritage sights, and commercial and entertainment amenities, which will support infrastructure that places emphasis on renewable energy and water consumption and re-use.

Jean Nouvel’s design for subterranean hotel is unveiled

As Saudi Arabia continues its drive to reposition itself as a cultural destination, plans for the Sharaan resort - a subterranean hotel cut into the sandstone landscape in the northwestern AlUla desert – have been unveiled. Due for completion by 2024, the resort will include 40 rooms, three resort villas and aims to promote the cultural credentials of Saudi Arabia, diversify the economy and deliver a more ‘open’ image of the country.

Qiddiya dubbed as the kingdom’s ‘capital of entertainment’

Set on the outskirts of Riyadh, Qiddiya’s entertainment development will span over 334 square km, and will offer a Formula One-standard racetrack amongst other projects.

Ultimately, Qiddiya will be home to more than 300 educational and recreational facilities centred around five themes: Parks and Attractions, Sports and Wellness, Nature and Environment, Arts and Culture, and Motion and Mobility. By 2030, the development hopes to draw up to seventeen million annual visitors.

Neom is the flagship project of Saudi Arabia’s post-oil diversification plan

This $500bn high-tech city is the flagship project of Vision 2030, which ultimately aims to reduce the kingdom’s reliance on hydrocarbons. The city is set to house areas dedicated to technologies in sixteen sectors, including but not limited to biotech, manufacturing and technology, and food.

Neom’s contribution by 2030 is projected to reach at least $100bn, while the construction village will contain green areas with vegetable plots, plus facilities for outdoor sports.

Amaala could help establish a new luxury tourism destination

The city’s mega project will border the city of Neom and the Red Sea Project and has been dubbed as the ‘Riviera of the Middle East’. The development will consist of 2,500 hotel rooms, as well as 700 private residential villas along with an outlet retail area. It’s also planned for there to be an academy of the arts, which will help to develop young artists from Saudi Arabia and the wider region.

It’s expected that the project will target luxury travellers, with its own airport and the 3,000 square km development spread across three sites. The project in Amaala is expected to be completed in 2028, generating up to 22,000 jobs for the nation.

Ad Diriyah set to put tourism wheels in motion

Known as the ‘pearl of Saudi Arabia’ and the site of the first Saudi state – the original seat of the power of the kingdom’s Al Saud family – Ad Diriyah is on the outskirts of Riyadh and looks to become a major tourist destination.

The $17bn development will be compiled of several luxury resorts (including major international hotel brands), and more than 100 dining and entertainment options – with the first hotel due to open later this year.

There’s also more than dining and entertainment in Ad Diriyah; there’s also At-Turaif, a Unesco-listed site which was the mud-brick capital city founded in the 15th century. Today At-Turaif has been mostly destroyed, however, a redevelopment project has introduced museums and performance spaces – and until the end of 2019 the site had not been opened to the public.

From the projects noted above, it’s clear that big changes are coming to Saudi Arabia, and tourism has a vital part to play in the future of Saudi Arabia as it seeks to diversify its economy away from oil.


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