RIYAD: It has been a busy year for Souda Development, after the Kingdom’s Public Investment Fund said a new venture would transform the mountain destination of the Asir region into a world-class luxury resort.
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman announced the move on February 24, which will see Soudah development spend SR 11 billion ($ 3 billion) to boost tourism in Soudah and parts of Rijal Alma’a governorate.
This decision is one of the main drivers of the Kingdom’s ambitions for Vision 2030, which aims to diversify the Kingdom’s economy and reduce its dependence on oil.
Soudah Mountain is Saudi Arabia’s highest juniper-covered peak, over 3,000 meters above sea level, which attracts around 1 million visitors a year. But the company is targeting 2 million annual visitors, to make the Soudah region an international tourist destination.
SD predicts the attraction will contribute SR 29 billion to Saudi Arabia’s gross domestic product by 2030, and also plans to create 8,000 direct and indirect jobs by then.
In May, the company signed a memorandum of understanding with the municipality of Asir to organize building permits and authorize commercial activities of all kinds. The agreement also defined the areas proposed by the municipality for investment.
The company announced during the Green Saudi Green Initiative in October that it would plant more than one million trees in Soudah and parts of Rijal Alma’a within eight years, which aims to reduce emissions of 4% carbon. This will bring the naturally protected areas to over 30 percent of the Kingdom.
SD CEO Husameddin Al-Madani told Arab News at the green summit that $ 3 billion would be spent on transport such as primary, secondary and tertiary roads, while other investments would go into projects. energy and micro-grids.
The company announced an agreement with the Swiss in November to provide scholarships for young people from Soudah and Rijal Alma’a to study at the best cooking, hospitality and business management schools in Switzerland.
The move will offer degrees, undergraduate or postgraduate courses at four of Switzerland’s top schools – the Swiss Hotel Management School, the Cesar Ritz Colleges Switzerland, the Culinary Arts Academy and the Hotel Institute Montreux.
Additionally, in November, the SD became a member of the United Nations Mountain Partnership, which aims to strengthen the sustainability of buildings in the region.
The development company has also become a key partner in one of the toughest endurance motorsport events in the world, the Dakar Rally 2022, which takes place through the Saudi Arabian desert, to promote the sports of adventure in the region.
The organization ended the year on a high note by becoming an Affiliate Member of the World Tourism Organization in December, allowing it to work with more than 500 global companies, educational and research institutions, resorts and non-governmental organizations.
SD will release its master plan in the first quarter of 2022 after discussions with local and international investment communities.
“We have started the demolition and our site preparation work on the ground in preparation for starting our extensive construction program by April 2022,” CEO Al-Madani told Arab News in a year-round interview. last.
Next year, SD will release its master plan in the first quarter of 2022 after discussions with local and international investment communities.
Most recently, SD was confirmed as the official partner of the ongoing 2022 Dakar Motorsport Rally.
The partnership will see Soudah showcase traditional live performances as part of post-race entertainment in camps set up for participants, stakeholders and the media.
Hundreds of runners, pilots and crews will experience Asiri’s traditional music and performances live alongside Soudah and Rijal Almaa culture after completing a hard day of racing.
These performances will take place during the Riyadh, Jeddah, Bisha and Ha’il stages of the rally.
The partnership, the company said, reflects its commitment to “promote the Soudah and Rijal Almaa region as a destination for sports and adventure tourism”, as part of its broader goal of becoming a mountain destination of premier luxury.
Now in its 44th edition, the Dakar Rally is organized by AOS in partnership with the International Automobile Federation (FIA), the Saudi Automobile and Motorcycle Federation as well as other local authorities.
More than 1,000 participants from 70 countries aboard more than 600 vehicles will travel through Hail, Riyadh, Jeddah and the Asir region as part of the race.
The Dakar Rally 2022 is the first sporting event sponsored by Soudah Development since its launch last February.
“We have started the demolition and our site preparation work on the ground in preparation for starting our extensive construction program by April 2022,” CEO Al-Madani told Arab News in an interview.