UK trade event highlights ‘huge opportunities’ presented by Vision 2030

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Jeddah - Yasmine El Tohamy - Future Hospitality Summit: Saudi Arabia will create ‘level playing field’ for investors

DUBAI: Saudi Arabia will provide equal opportunities for local and international investors, the Kingdom’s investment minister told the Future Hospitality Summit.

The intent was to have a level playing field for all investors and the ministry was serving both domestic and international investors, Khalid Al-Falih said on the second day of the event.

He also talked about Saudi Arabia’s plans to fulfil its 2030 vision for the tourism sector and make the Kingdom one of the world’s top five destinations.

“We believe Umrah can be increased to at least 30 million people, from about eight million in 2018-2019,” Al-Falih said.

He added that pre-COVID-19 Hajj numbers, averaging at nearly 2.4 million people in the last 10 years, would remain the same due to space and logistical restraints.

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Al-Falih also told the summit that the Kingdom’s unique position in the tourism industry would attract investors as the country was still undersupplied with the required infrastructure.

“What makes Saudi Arabia unique when we come (to) post-COVID … (is that) we are going to be undersupplied with assets, hotel rooms, infrastructure, that will address all the opportunities for travelers.”

The minister explained that one of the reasons for the decline in direct foreign investment in recent years was the overbuild in capacity in many sectors. The Kingdom’s Investment Ministry would acknowledge the risks that international investors saw, both real and perceived, Al-Falih said.

“We will introduce special economic zones for international investors… (they) will be part of the offering of the Kingdom in various sectors,” he said.

Amr Al-Madani, CEO of the Royal Commission for AlUla, discussed updates on the UNESCO heritage site at the summit.

Amr Al-Madani, CEO of the Royal Commission for AlUla, discussed updates on the UNESCO heritage site at the summit. (Screenshot/Future Hospitality Summit)

“We are on our way now to reopen to visitors, by the end of October visitors will be seeing themselves visiting AlUla with coronavirus precautions,” he said.

The site expects to open to international visitors in early 2021, after the Kingdom eases coronavirus travel restrictions.

Saudi Arabia’s Interior Ministry has said that all restrictions on air, land and sea transport will end after Jan. 1. The exact date will be announced in December.

The Kingdom’s reopening for tourism was also discussed by Fahd Hamidaddin, the Saudi Tourism Board’s chief executive. He expected the numbers of visitors to rebound to pre-COVID-19 levels by 2023, saying visitors would return by early 2021 and that there was a lot of optimism about the Kingdom’s reopening. 

And, while the Kingdom is undertaking big-ticket tourism, Saudi officials said they were doing their best to be environmentally cautious and to create more sustainable travel practices.

John Pagano, CEO of the Red Sea Development Company, said there was an emphasis on sustainability and that it was “at the very heart of what we do … We are going to rely on renewable energy 24 hours a day.”

The project is expected to welcome its first guests by the end of 2022, Pagano added.

The summit has been organized by the Ministry of Tourism and the G20 Saudi Secretariat. More than 6,000 people from around the world are taking part.

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