Saudi Arabia presents a unique opportunity for investors, delegates at the Future Hospitality Summit have been told.
Khalid Al-Falih, minister of investment for the country, told attendees from the around the world that the tourism sector in Saudi was poised for sustained growth, and invited them to participate.
“There are few destinations that have the variety of the offering that Saudi Arabia has - from the dive sites of the Red Sea, the orange sand dunes of the Arabian Desert and some of the richest ecosystems anywhere on earth.
“Of course, we also have an extensive heritage which dates back over thousands of years – some of which is largely undiscovered by the outside world.”
Al-Falih reiterated that Saudi was looking to welcome 100 million guests annually by 2030, moving it into the top rank of hospitality destinations globally.
This would offer a great opportunity for investors, he said.
“We are looking at ways to activate the tourism sector.
“What will make Saudi Arabia unique in the post-Covid-19 world is that we are going to be undersupplied in hospitality assets as we grow.
“A lot of markets are oversupplied in hotels, airports and logistics, but that is not the case here.
“Whatever the situation in the rest of the world, we will be adding 500,000 hotel rooms by 2030 here in Saudi Arabia.
“There will be projects and opportunities here, all of which will be offered to the private sector.”
Al-Falih was speaking at Future Hospitality Summit, a hybrid virtual conference developed to explore big ideas and tackle the challenges facing the hospitality industry, and will take place in Riyadh over the next two days.
The event, which promises to be one of the most impactful gatherings of the hospitality community, will be delivered on a cutting-edge event platform from Bench Digital.
It will provide an immersive live experience, including a virtual exhibition, one-to-one video networking and integrated chat features to all participants.
Al-Falih continued: “International investors are not too familiar with the landscape here in Saudi Arabia.
“They know oil sector, yes, but it is fair to say it is less so with tourism; and what we are trying to do with them is lay out the business case.
“They are aware of the risks and we must respect that – we have to look at the regulatory environment and try to mitigate the risks by changing regulations and providing stability.”
He added: “We will be looking at introducing special economic zones, with new tax regimes, legal frameworks and international arbitration – none of them are finalised, but we are working on them.
“These will be on offer to various sectors, including tourism, if we find it necessary.”
According to the World Bank, foreign direct investment in Saudi Arabia has fallen to record lows in recent years, illustrating the scale of the task at hand – particularly given the global recession likely to follow the Covid-19 shutdown.
Al-Falih concluded: “The government will lay out the infrastructure, the legal framework and the vision – and we hope the private sector will invest.
“This has been happening over the last few years, and we hope tourism will be able to take advantage of that.
“We hope investors will bring guests, makes money and we will celebrate that with them.”
Future Hospitality Summit is organised by ministry of tourism Saudi Arabia and G20 Saudi Secretariat as part of the International Conferences Program, honouring the G20 Saudi presidency 2020.
Find out more on the official website.
Image: Xinhua News Agency/PA Images