Saudi Arabia is ‘single biggest hospitality opportunity’

Tourism specialists believe that the nation, with its wealth of giga-projects, ‘is set to surprise many’

Saudi Arabia currently represents the single biggest opportunity for hospitality and tourism, and that is set to continue for at least another five years, according to a new report from PKF Hospitality Group.

The view is that while there some doubts remain about project timelines, Saudi Arabia will surprise many and will be a changed country in the years to come. The group recently held one of its major ‘spotlight’ events in Riyadh in recognition of the significant amount of projects that have been announced for Saudi Arabia.

The majority of these projects, many of which are ‘giga-projects’ touted to be worth well in excess of $100bn each, form part of the very ambitious Saudi Vision 2030. This strategic road map is set to harness the strength and strategic position of the Kingdom whilst reducing its reliance on oil.

The focus areas, on which more than $800bn will be spent, are tourism, health infrastructure and education. In addition, the overall improvement of the country’s image is another desired outcome of this massive effort.

In late March 2023, AECOM was appointed to provide PMC services for Neom airport.

The initial push is to create products that attract the local traveller, who currently doesn’t find enough reason to travel within his/her own country. The millions of pilgrims who come to Saudi Arabia to visit the holy sites are the next obvious market to be targeted – followed by the discerning international traveller.

PKF comments that there are voices questioning how realistic these plans are and how they will be executed on time to meet the deadlines of Vision 2030; but the fact that many have not only already broken ground but have strong ongoing infrastructure development has already attracted international comment and a wide raft of household-name multidisciplinary contractors.

Nils Heckscher, Head of Africa also overseeing PKF’s Middle East operations said, “Yes, I also think, that some may not be seen completed on time. It is a simple fact that know-how, materials – and in the end, staff to run these places – are not in high supply. Yet, others we will see completed on time, no doubt.”

First on that list will be Trojena, the official host location of the Asian Winter Games 2029. Much coverage was received about this venue of choice, with many obvious comments about the heat and desert making for an unlikely winter sports destination. Yet the region does actually see snow in winter and is in general 10 degrees cooler than the rest of the country. Architecture and technical advances will make the holding of the competitions in the various winter sport disciplines possible.

In late March 2023, Red Sea Global awarded contracts for Amaala’s Marina Village.

Sustainability ranks high in the KPIs that these projects have been set. Nils Heckscher comments: “It is heartening to see public-private partnerships that have a strong focus on ESG principles and that intend to build in a sustainable manner; sourcing local materials as well as design and employing locals who will be trained and given ample opportunity to advance. These are fundamental building blocks in creating great and sustainable destinations.”

Christian Walter, Global CEO PKF Hospitality Group concludes, “We will continue to add value to our clients’ projects and believe that there is a great need for the type of services we provide. Saudi Arabia currently represents the single biggest opportunity for hospitality and tourism, and that is set to continue for at least another five years.”

In early April 2023, Red Sea Global appointed ILF Consulting Engineers to implement $1.5bn utility project.

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