ABU DHABI: Saudi Arabia’s tourism and hospitality sector is in high gear to achieve industry targets set under Vision 2030, industry leaders said during a panel on Tuesday.
“No sector matches tourism in creating jobs, especially in rural areas and communities that are currently suffering from unemployment. One in every five jobs globally today is supported by tourism, so that’s tourism is such an important sector,” Badr Alherbish, chief strategy officer of Saudi Arabia’s Tourism Development Fund, said in one of the sessions of the three-day Future Hospitality Summit in Abu Dhabi.
One example of Saudi Arabia’s ambitious development push is the Rua Al Madinah project — a mega mixed-used real estate development to the east of the Prophet’s Mosque — which, according to Ahmed Al-Juhani, CEO of Rua Al Madinah Holding, required laser focus to work around logistical issues to deliver this massive project.
“(Since) the launch, the master plan and infrastructure work… there has been a lot of work done on the ground. We actually took over the land and we made all the detours around the urban development. We completed the design of 5,000 rooms, we signed a hotel management agreement with three companies for these rooms.”
The value of contracts and execution is now more than SR5.3 billion ($1.4 billion), Al-Juhani added, and the company will next month go to the market for the tender of the 5,000 rooms.
“We also have another 7,000 rooms under design right now and in the concept stage and also another 8,000 rooms when start design in November,” he said.
“We are talking about 20,000 rooms before the year ends at different stages: under design, under construction, or in the middle of the design.”
Meanwhile, the Boutique Group headed by Mark DeCocinis is renovating three historic palaces: Al-Hamra Palace which will offer 77 keys including 33 luxury palace suites and 44 luxury villas in Jeddah; Tuwaiq Palace which will provide 96 keys including 40 luxury palace suites and 56 luxury villas; and the Red Palace will offer 71 keys including 46 luxury suites, and 25 luxury guest rooms. Both Tuwaiq and Red Palace are located in Riyadh.
“We’re renovating and restoring these balances, which takes time and it takes a lot of love and attention to detail. Our guest profile, we target the very top of regional and international travelers… we want to provide that exceptional service and personalized service,” DeCocini told the panel.
“I believe Saudi hospitality will be the new benchmark in the world globally.”