TOKYO: Saudi Arabia’s NEOM development has attracted significant interest from Japanese firms, according to Niall Gibbons, managing director of tourism for the Kingdom’s project.
“So far, it has been a very productive day here in Tokyo on the third leg of our Asian tour. We have had strong representation from various Japanese companies,” Gibbons told Arab News Japan in an interview conducted in Tokyo.
“It’s about a couple of things really. First, it is about NEOM telling its story in relation to the size and scale and ambition of the project. Also, it is an opportunity for a two-way dialogue. This is part of building relationships and is really, really important, especially relationships for the long term.”
Gibbons was speaking at the Tokyo stop of the “Discover NEOM” tour, which is being held in major cities around the world. Wednesday’s event took place at the Toranomon Hills Forum in the center of Tokyo.
Gibbons said they were pleased with the turnout and to have the opportunity to discuss some of the key regions and sectors of NEOM, including The LINE, education research, sport and tourism.
A reception with an exhibition of The LINE was organized to provide an opportunity for engagement.
“There certainly is a lot (of) interest from Japanese companies. Just talking to people casually during networking meetings over lunch, I think people are really excited about the project, the scale and ambition, and I think when you put it in the context of the Saudi 2030 Vision, including creating a thriving economy and vibrant society, I think NEOM really is part of that and we, the audience, are very happy to be a part of that two-way dialogue,” he said.
Gibbons said a positive sign was the participation of officials from the Japanese government, including representatives from METI, JCCME and JETRO — the Ministry of Economy Trade and Industry, the Japan Cooperation Center for the Middle East, and the Japan External Trade Organization.
“I think it is good to have that level of endorsement, particularly for the audience here and it’s always good to have those strong bilateral ties.”
Gibbons noted “there has been very strong government support,” adding, “I think those relationships are important and today we really got started with the conversation on the business arrangements. And in time, it will be important for these relationships to move onward after today and develop into very strong business ties that make for a vigor essential for the success in the long term.”
Gibbons, who has been living in NEOM for five months, said that with design input from world-leading architects and designers, there is great confidence with regard to future-proofing the project.
Replying to a question on when NEOM will be completed, Gibbons said that it is a long-term project, but the first element of The LINE is due to be completed at the end of 2027. “Our first tourism project, which is Sindalah, which is my area of responsibility, is opening in 2024 and each year from then onwards — 2025, 2026, 2027, 2028, 2029 — there is something coming on stream.”
“The NEOM team is starting out a very ambitious sales and marketing strategy and we are currently representing NEOM at about 16 different trade shows around the world to attract those who seek safe and secure destinations, and like direct air travel and competitive air access is going to be important in the future. I am building relationships in the travel trade, and they are keen to be on board,” he said.