RIYADH: It has been a busy year for Souda Development, after the Kingdom’s Public Investment Fund said that a new firm would turn the mountain destination in the Asir region into a world-class luxury resort.
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman announced the move on Feb. 24, which will see the Soudah Development spend SR11 billion ($3 billion) to boost tourism in Soudah and parts of Rijal Alma’a governorate.
The move is a key driver of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 ambitions, which aims to diversify the Kingdom’s economy and reduce reliance on oil.
Soudah mountain is the juniper- covered highest peak in Saudi Arabia, over 3,000 meters above sea level, which attracts about 1 million visitors a year. But the company targets 2 million annual visitors, to make the Soudah area an international tourist destination.
SD forecasts the attraction will contribute SR29 billion to the Saudi gross domestic product by 2030, it also expects to create 8,000 direct and indirect jobs by that time.
The firm signed a memorandum of understanding with the Asir municipality in May to organize building permits and allow commercial activities of all kinds. The deal 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 1 million trees in Soudah and parts of Rijal Alma’a within eight years, which aims to reduce carbon emissions by 4 percent. This will lift naturally protected areas to more than 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, with other invest ments going into energy and microgrid projects.
The company announced a deal with the Swiss in November to run scholarships for young people in Soudah and Rijal Alma’a to study at Switzerland’s best culinary, hospitality and business management schools.
The move will offer diplomas, undergraduate or postgraduate courses at four of Switzerland’s top schools — The Swiss Hotel Management School, Cesar Ritz Colleges Switzerland, the Culinary Arts Academy, and the Hotel Institute Montreux.
Also, in November the SD became a member of the UN’s Mountain Partnership, which aims to boost the sustainability of buildings in the region.
The development company also became a key partner in one of the world’s toughest endurance motorsports events, the 2022 Dakar Rally, which takes place across the Saudi Arabian desert, to promote adventure sports in the area.
The body finished the year strongly, 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 Nongovernmental organizations.
SD will release its masterplan in the first quarter of 2022 after discussions with local and international investment communities.
“We have started demolition and our site preparation work on the ground in preparation for starting our large construction program by April 2022,” said CEO, Al-Madani to Arab News in an interview last year.
Next year, SD will release its masterplan in the first quarter of 2022 after discussions with local and international investment communities.
Just recently, the SD has been confirmed as an official partner of the ongoing motorsport Dakar Rally 2022.
The partnership will see Soudah present traditional live performances as part of the post-racing entertainment in camps set up for participants, stakeholders, and the media.
Hundreds of riders, drivers and crew will experience live traditional Asiri music and performances alongside the culture of Soudah and Rijal Almaa after completing a tough day’s 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 “promoting the Soudah and Rijal Almaa region as a destination for sports and adventure tourism,” as part of its wider goal to become a leading luxury mountain destination.
Now in its 44th edition, the Dakar Rally is organized by AOS in partnership with the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA), The Saudi Arabian Automobile and Motorcycle Federation as well as other local authorities
More than 1,000 participants from 70 countries aboard over 600 vehicles will travel across 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 demolition and our site preparation work on the ground in preparation for starting our large construction program by April 2022,” said CEO, Al-Madani to Arab News in an interview.