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Home / NEWS / Can Saudi build the infra needed to accommodate its tourism drive?

Can Saudi build the infra needed to accommodate its tourism drive?

by Jumana Abdel-Razzaq on Aug 1, 2018


Maya Whiteley, partner, MENA real estate, hospitality, and construction sector at EY.
Maya Whiteley, partner, MENA real estate, hospitality, and construction sector at EY.

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Saudi Arabia is aspiring to be a top leisure destination in the region, and more so, in the world. But though the drive to achieve this goal has led to rapid infrastructure development of late, notable challenges remain.

In its history, the kingdom has not exactly been known as a prime leisure destination, and currently lacks much of the infrastructure needed to maintain this largely untapped market.

However, Saudi is building, and has in the last two years made major investments, launching extensive masterplans for resort cities on the Red Sea coast, as well as entertainment districts which will introduce large-scale amusement parks and attractions for the first time in the kingdom.

READ: Boom in Saudi's entertainment sector bodes well for Jeddah developers

Maya Whiteley, partner, MENA real estate, hospitality, and construction sector at EY, gives details of the key issues facing Saudi’s development strategy, and how it plans to build an immersive hospitality experience – essentially from the ground-up.

“In-terms of the mega-infrastructure projects in Saudi, they really fall predominantly in two brackets,” Whiteley told Construction Week in an interview earlier this year

“There is the transportation related infrastructure and then obviously the new real estate and hospitality developments, or destination developments,” she says.  

With new metro lines, the high-speed rail, and airport expansions, Whiteley supports that much of these projects are also connected to the objectives for enhancing tourism in the kingdom.

“And a lot of the new developments and projects, be it the Red Sea project, Neom, or Qiddya, are coming up in places that have limited to no current infrastructure in place.”

The drive for infrastructure has always been at the top of the government’s agenda, but not more so than in the last couple of years. The announcement of the Saudi Vision 2030 in 2016 has created a rapid push, and fueled ambitious targets and development.

“I think they are very ambitious and have very aggressive timelines, and there is a very clear focus on it. Decisions are being made at a pace that indicates that yes, I think these things will happen,” she said.

What Whiteley finds most interesting about Saudi’s shift in mind-set when it comes to tourism is just how the country is planning to go about it.

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