PIF creates investment opportunity in Asir region
As we were landing at Abha International Airport, I glanced through my window and saw one of the most breathtaking sights of clouds hugging the mountains. It was my first visit to the southern region at the invitation of Asir Gov. Prince Turki bin Talal, in his capacity as head of the advisory board of the Arab Open University Buildings project, of which I am a member of the finance and investment subcommittee.
From the very first hour of arrival to our departure on the same day, Prince Turki was involved in multiple meetings with many energetic young men and women working around him in different workshops like a Swiss clock. I realized then that the region is going through a major transformation and providing future investment opportunities.
Last week, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman, who is also the chairman of the Public Investment Fund (PIF), launched Soudah Development Co. (SDC) in the Asir region, with expected investments of more than SR11 billion ($3 billion) in infrastructure and tourism projects, aimed at enhancing the visitor experience in Soudah and parts of Rijal Almaa’s governorate.
The planned developments include 2,700 hotel rooms, 1,300 residential units, and 30 commercial and entertainment attractions. The company aims to develop Soudah into a year-long destination for residents, local visitors and tourists that will contribute an estimated SR29 billion to the Kingdom’s GDP, in partnership with the public and private sectors.
SDC is expected to provide 8,000 direct and indirect jobs by 2030. SDC also aims to improve the quality of services by investing in more than 20 projects to develop that area’s infrastructure.
The first phase will be delivered by the end of 2023, which will include the majority of the development program. Soudah is linked to a network of highways, and it is about 45 minutes from Abha International Airport, which will connect it to different international airports.
In my opinion, the PIF has been successful in identifying investment opportunities, for local and international investors, to develop vast areas across the Kingdom and transform them into world-class tourist destinations.
In addition to NEOM, Qiddiya, the Red Sea Development Co., Amaala, and Diriyah Gate Development Authority, Soudah Development Co. is the latest but not the last. It is a promising greenfield investment opportunity for local and international investors who have a strong appetite for hospitality and tourist attraction developments and their respective infrastructure.
• Basil M.K. Al-Ghalayini is the chairman and CEO of BMG Financial Group