Saudi Arabia’s sharp tourism statement with ‘giga projects’


Saudi Arabia Giga Projects Image: / / / /

Saudi Arabia is opening its gates to wide scale tourism for the first time to offer a glimpse of the diverse attractions and cultural flavors of the kingdom.

Potential visitors who are seeking to experience culture and history first-hand, there are already five UNESCO-listed heritage sites to draw in. Saudi Arabia is pulling out all stops to make a sharp tourism statement.

The kingdom’s five major new developments are – Ad Diriyah, NEOM, the Red Sea Project, Amaala and Qiddiyah.

Ad Diriyah

Ad Diriyah is known as the “pearl of Saudi Arabia”. It will set the kingdom’s tourism wheels on the fast track. Located on the outskirts of Riyadh, it is the original seat of power of Saudi Arabia’s Al Saud family. It is all poised to become a major tourist destination surrounded by several luxury resorts, including major international hotel brands promising unbeatable cuisine, unparalleled luxury and entertainment options. The first hotel is scheduled to open late in 2021.

Within Ad Diriyah, lies the UNESCO-listed site of At-Turaif. The mud-brick capital city founded in the 15th century is spread over a huge area and gives a feeling of ‘so yesterday and so ancient.’ The whole city has been influenced by the Najdi architectural style of Arabia. Today, At-Turaif lies mostly destroyed but an overhauling project has led to the opening of museums, performance spaces and gives a peek into 18th century Saudi Arabia.

The site has not been opened to the public since UNESCO bestowed its tag in 2010. Jerry Inzerillo, Chief Executive of Diriyah Gate Development Authority, was in Riyadh recently to ink MoUs with hospitality providers.

He recently got into a pact with Aman hotels who are set to bring “several hotels” to Ad Diriyah. Twenty other major luxury hotel brands would be setting up properties in the area. “It’s going to be what the Acropolis is to Athens, and what the Colosseum is to Rome,” Inzerillo observed. Ad Diriyah is set to open in January 2020.


Neom will showcase the futuristic side of Saudi Arabia – a $500 billion city boasting leading-edge technology. It is the flagship project of Saudi Arabia’s post-oil diversification plan known as Vision 2030 that seeks to reduce the kingdom’s dependence on hydrocarbons.

Located in north-western Saudi Arabia, it is all set to include territory from the Egyptian and Jordanian borders, spanning a total area of 26,500 square kilometers. It is being constructed on a site which will enjoy over 450 km of coastline and the size of the site is 35 times the size of Singapore.

Sixteen sectors including biotech, food, manufacturing and technology, among others, will be totally devoted to cutting-edge technology of the future. Neom’s contribution to the kingdom’s GDP is projected to reach at least $100 billion by 2030.

The construction village will contain vistas of sylvan charm – orchards, vegetable plots and ornamental gardens, as well as sports facilities including cricket and soccer pitches, gyms, and courts for tennis and basketball, among other facilities.

Projected as a “window of opportunity” for the Red Sea, it is situated close to the Jordan and Egypt borders, and is being termed as the “world’s first” independent international zone that extends over three countries.

Red Sea Project

The Red Sea Project is positioned between the coastal cities of Umluj and Al Wajh. This project is being built in a region extending over 30,000 square kilometers. It will feature a natural archipelago of islands with pristine sheen and a vast desert landscape comprising mountain peaks, historical and archaeological treasure troves and a dormant volcano.

It will be the first fully coordinated mixed-use luxe resort in the Middle East and is expected to attract visitors all year round. It has been so designed that the import will be on heritage, culture and conservation and 8,000 new hotel rooms will be available once completed.

The region boasts 200 km of virgin coastline and a vast desert landscape replete with ancient archaeological treasures. The developers of the Red Sea Project are aiming to make it one of the world’s most successful sustainable tourist resorts.

Pollution, rising sea levels and climate changes hover over the majority of the islands. With sustainability uppermost in the developers’ minds, they are confident of addressing some of these problems. The destination will also have a zero waste-to-landfill-policy, 100 per cent carbon neutrality and a ban on single-use plastics. Fifteen million plants will be planted on a 100-hectare landscape nursery in the islands.

Also on offer will be world-class diving facilities, and tourists can get to enjoy an abundance of marine life as it’s one of the only places in the world to still have thriving coral reefs.


The Amaala megaproject will border the city of Neom and the Red Sea Project within the precincts of the Prince Mohammed bin Salman Natural Reserve. Along the Red Sea in the Tabuk province, it will help establish a new tourism hub.

The development will feature 2,500 hotel rooms and 700 private residential villas along with a retail space boasting 200 outlets. Amaala will also have an academy of the arts with the aim to hone the skills of young artists of Saudi Arabia and the broader region.

The 3,000 square kilometer development will have its own airport facility and will target travellers who love ‘living life kingsize’. It will spread across three sites.

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz announced SAR 7 billion ($2.9bn) worth of development projects late last year in the areas of education, infrastructure, parks and housing, in the northern region of the kingdom in Tabuk.

Much detail about the project has still not been disclosed.


To be located on the fringes of Riyadh, Qiddiya is poised to be Saudi’s “pre-eminent entertainment, sports and cultural destination”.

Not much has been revealed about concrete development plans in Qiddiya – home to the kingdom’s first theme park.

Six Flags Qiddiya which is due to be completed in 2023 is being built as part of a new city outside Riyadh and will be home to the world’s fastest roller coaster ride. Developer Qiddiya Investment Company revealed the park design in August and said many rides will “set world records”.

“The Falcon’s Flight, inspired by the kingdom’s iconic raptor, will be the longest, tallest and fastest roller coaster in the world, while the Sirocco Tower will break more records with the world’s tallest drop-tower ride,” the company stated.

Motor sport facilities and a safari park will be part of Qiddiya entertainment development. The project is being expanded in three phases and broke ground in April last year. It is expected that in 2019 the Qiddiya Experience Centre will be launched and the construction work of Phase I will get rolling.

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