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Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz creates a new development company to help realize his tourism sector dreams.

Series: Middle East Travel Roundup

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The Public Investment Fund (PIF) of Saudi Arabia has formed another development company, Ardara, solely focused on the upcoming AlWadi destination. Launched by Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz, who serves as PIF’s chairman, Ardara adds to the crown prince’s portfolio of government-owned construction companies.

The AlWadi project sits within the Aseer region of the kingdom, which has long been an agricultural center in the country. Within the next three years, however, it will be a tourism and retail hub – one of many the country is building under the banner of economic diversification and improving locals’ quality of life.

AlWadi – meaning “the valley”– will span 2.5 million square meters and will be developed with sustainability at its core, according to PIF. Spread over five districts, AlWadi will have residential, hospitality and recreation developments to be provided with phase one of the project over the next three years. This will include 2,000 residential options in the form of high-end apartments and villas, luxury hotels, and commercial spaces.

The AlWadi destination is set to contribute more than SAR 19 billion (approx. $5.08 billion) to the country’s non-oil GDP by 2030, creating thousands of jobs for the region’s local communities.

Qiddiya Tourism School Announced

Plenty of money is being poured into Saudi Arabia’s tourism infrastructure, including new airports, airlines, and travel destinations equal in size to a small country. To service these ambitious ventures, the country is also investing heavily in its talent pool.

As part of this, the country’s tourism minister has announced a tourism school, costing upwards of a billion dollars, and set to open In the Qiddiya giga-project. Called the Riyadh School of Tourism and Hospitality, its campus will spread over five million square meters. It is expected to open in 2027. Minister Al Khateeb said: “This school is a gift from Saudi Arabia to the world because it will be open to everyone to enjoy the best training in the field of tourism and hospitality.”

Hilton Commits $250,000 To UAE Disability Charity

U.S. hotel group Hilton has committed $250,000 to the Sedra Foundation, a charity in the UAE that works to improve the quality of living for disabled people in the region. The money comes from the Hilton Global Foundation (HGF). This year, HGF has awarded more than $3.3 million in grants globally – the biggest in its history.

As part of the grant, Hilton will support Sedra in getting more young disabled people job placements and vocational training across hotels. Since 2021, Hilton and Sedra have hired 30 young disabled people across the operator’s local network of hotels.

Dubai’s Revived La Mer District Announces New Hotel

The first new hotel in Dubai’s La Mer area has been announced since the surrounding area was bulldozed last year. Original developers Meeras are back with Port de La Mer, five minutes away from the original La Mer site. This new area will house the Gran Meliá Dubai Jumeirah operated by Meliá Hotels International. The Mediterranean-inspired resort will mark the debut of Meliá’s top-tier brand when it opens in 2025. Pitching itself to a cooler crowd in the city, the hotel will have a Zuma restaurant on site, which has long been one of the city’s most popular fine-dining spots in nearby business district DIFC.

Abha Airport Announces Masterplan For Expansion

In addition to the creation of Ardara to build up developments in the Aseer region of Saudi, the area’s main airport will also expand. The Abha International Airport will expand to 65,000 square meters, as planned to complete the first phase by 2028, compared to the current 10,500 square meters of the existing airport. The airport’s capacity will increase to accommodate over 13 million passengers annually, a tenfold increase from the current 1.5 million capacity. It will also handle more than 90,000 flights per year, a significant increase from the current 30,000 flights. Additionally, the new airport will feature 20 gates, along with 41 check-in counters.

Seaplane Company Created to Fly Guests To Luxury Saudi Hotels

Fly Red Sea is operational – Saudi Arabia’s seaplane company, which right now, operates between Red Sea International Airport and three unopened hotels. The company is a subsidiary of development firm Red Sea Global, which is building luxury archipelagos and hotels along the Red Sea coast. Fly Red Sea has an initial fleet of four Cessna Caravan 208 seaplanes, planning to have nine by 2028 and 20 two years after that. Red Sea Global group CEO John Pagano said the company “would prioritize giving skilled, rewarding career opportunities to the Saudi people,” as part of the country’s focus to increase the percentage of local staff in the tourism industry.

Red Sea Global Takes on Second Airport

Also in Red Sea news, the developer has announced its project outside of those it is developing itself. RSG has been given the contract to refurbish Al Wajh Airport (EJH), which it will expand to service its own destinations. The primary goal of this project is to modernize the airport, aligning it with global standards. In addition to enhancing the current terminal and infrastructure, RSG is in the process of constructing a new international terminal, with the unveiling of its designs slated for the near future.

Emaar Continues To Build Up Dubai Creek Harbour

Dubai real estate major Emaar is rapidly building on its Dubai Creek Harbour project. The privately-held company bought the area from Dubai Holding last year using both cash and shares. Soon after the sale, Emaar’s Address hotel brand debuted in the area, and now, its more affordable Vida brand has landed as well.


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Tags: middle east newsletter, Saudi Tourism, Tourism news, travel news

Photo credit: Abha, the capital of Aseer. Credit: Unsplash.

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