JEDDAH: P.K. ABDUL GHAFOUR | ARAB NEWS STAFF
Published — Wednesday 11 September 2013
Last update 2 October 2013 1:20 pm
Commerce and Industry Minister Tawfiq Al-Rabiah highlighted the significance of the SR2.5 billion Uqair tourism project in Al-Ahsa, saying it would bring about qualitative improvement in the Kingdom’s tourism industry. The project expected to draw more than 13 million visitors a year.
“It will encourage more investment in trade, industry and small and medium enterprises by young Saudis and contribute to the Kingdom’s diversification drive,” he said, adding that it would also create more job opportunities.
Uqair is considered to be the first ever tourism destination in the Kingdom to be fully adopted by the government. The Cabinet allocated SR1.4 billion to build infrastructure and service facilities. The total investment in the project is expected to cross SR34 billion.
The plan for developing the region was submitted to Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah for approval during his visit to Al-Ahsa in 2006. The project was then declared a major multi-purpose coastal tourism destination.
“The project offers an ideal atmosphere for investors,” the minister said, adding that it would give investors good returns. Uqair, which is located along the coast and near heritage sites, will include hotels, residential units, health facilities, educational institutions and recreational centers.
Al-Rabiah said the contribution of the tourism sector to the Kingdom’s gross domestic product rose from SR116.2 billion in 2011 to SR120.5 billion in 2012, which is 5.4 percent of the GDP. He voiced optimism that Uqair would attract domestic and international investments.
“Its proximity to GCC countries and the presence of a seaport and railway system will make the project successful,” Al-Rabiah said.
Uqair project’s investment model is based on a partnership between the public and private sectors. A feasibility study on the project was carried out in collaboration with the Public Investment Fund (PIF) and Al-Ahsa Municipality. Spread across an area of 100 million square meters, including a coastline stretching over 15 km along the Arabian Gulf, Uqair is located about 70 km away from Dammam and Hufouf and about 400 km from Riyadh.
The first phase will include opening several tourism facilities, such as a water park, a motorcar sports center, a water sports center and amusement parks. The complex will have 2,600 furnished apartments and 2,900 hotel rooms.