Saudi Arabia eyes $20bn investment for Al-Ula heritage site projects

Construction projects initially will drive Al-Ula's creation of 35,000 jobs and addition of $32bn for Saudi Arabia's GDP

Al-Ula could attract $20bn investments in Saudi Arabia.
Al-Ula could attract $20bn investments in Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia plans to invite investments worth $20bn (SAR75bn) in the run up to 2035 for its Al-Ula eco-tourism megaproject, launched by HRH Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman in February 2019, that will create 35,000 jobs and contribute $32bn (SAR120bn) to Saudi’s GDP over the next 17 years, according to a Reuters report.  

Al-Ula is one of the Crown Prince’s numerous efforts to support the creation of a tourism economy in Saudi Arabia, and authorities anticipate two million visitors will eventually visit the Unesco Heritage Site each year, given its rock-hewn tombs and millennia-old stone carvings by Nabateans – the same Arabs that built Jordanian city Petra.

According to the Reuters report, Al-Ula will also host “dozens of Western acts, including a planned Michael Jackson-inspired ‘Thriller’ theatrical show”.

Chief executive of the Royal Commission for Al-Ula, Amr Madani, told Reuters that a global investor roadshow will be held before the end of 2019 to promote the project, adding that Al-Ula’s initial economic contribution will be led by its building schemes.

“The bulk of [the jobs and GDP] in the beginning will be construction-led but at steady state, it will [become] tourism-led,” Madani explained.

Al-Ula’s infrastructure is being financed by Saudi Arabia’s government, “along with a French cultural partnership”, according to the report. The project’s top boss said that financial agreements such as joint ventures and long leases will be considered for Al-Ula.

“We’d rather inject zero from public money, but the reality is we need to kick-start investment,” the Reuters report cited Madani as saying.

“We don’t know what that number is, but we’re committed to keep investing until we get to the right conditions where funds jump in.”

Al-Ula has already started to attract visitors, and Madani said response to the inaugural Winter at Tantora festival that recently concluded in the Al-Ula region “overwhelmed” authorities.

“We were overwhelmed, not only by those who came, but by people who saw the pictures and wanted to come. There is a lot of excitement around the world.”

Winter at Tantora saw the issuance of ‘seasonal’ visas for visitors to enter Saudi Arabia, and Al-Ula is being populated with the addition of 1,000 hotel rooms and desert camps as tourist interest in the region increases.

The three-month festival saw the launch of the 5,000m2 mirror-clad ‘Maraya’ concert hall in Al-Ula, where starchitect Jean Nouvel’s Sharaan Resort, and the Sharaan Natural Reserve project, will also be developed.

HH Prince Badr, Govenor of the Royal Commission for Al-Ula, launched Maraya ahead of Winter at Tantora, which included performances from Andrea Bocelli and Yanni.

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