Saudi Arabia to generate $20bn investments for Al-Ula

Investor roadshow by year-end for Al-Ula development

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Al-Ula, the site of an ancient civilization in a remote northwestern corner of the country, is part of plans by the Kingdom to diversify its economy away from oil. — File photo

RIYADH — Saudi Arabia is targeting up to $20 billion of investments through 2035 for a planned landmark tourism destination and will hold a global investor roadshow before the end of the year, the head of the project told Reuters.

Al-Ula, the site of an ancient civilization in a remote northwestern corner of the country, is part of plans by the Kingdom to diversify its economy away from oil.

Amr Madani, chief executive of the Royal Commission for Al-Ula, said in an interview this week he expects targeted investments to eventually generate 35,000 jobs and contribute a combined 120 billion riyals ($32 billion) to gross domestic product over the next 17 years.

The government, along with a French cultural partnership, has already begun financing infrastructure at Al-Ula.

“We’d rather inject zero from public money, but the reality is we need to kickstart the investment. So 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,” Madani said.

Various investment vehicles will be considered, including joint ventures and long leases, he added.

The authorities eventually want to attract up to 2 million visitors annually to Al-Ula, but they are starting with about 1,000 hotel rooms plus desert camps and a three month visitor season called Winter at Tantoura that just concluded its first iteration.

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

Alongside “seasonal” visas issued for Tantoura, the government has approved plans to issue electronic visas for foreign visitors to attend sporting events and concerts. — Reuters


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