Soudah Peaks [Credit: Soudah Development]

Saudi Crown Prince backs mountain tourism destination project

KSA: A masterplan to develop the mountainous area of Al Soudah and parts of Rijal Almaa in southwestern Saudi Arabia into a luxury tourism destination has been unveiled by the Saudi Crown Prince, HRH Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

HRH Crown Prince bin Salman, who is also chairman of real estate development company Soudah Development [owned by the Kingdom’s sovereign wealth fund Public Investment Fund – PIF], sees the project as a key part of Saudi Arabia’s strategy to diversify its economy, by expanding in high-growth industries such as tourism, hospitality and entertainment.

Set 3,015 metres above sea level on Saudi Arabia’s highest peak, Soudah Peaks is described as representing “a new era of luxury mountain tourism by providing an unprecedented living experience while preserving the natural environment, cultural and heritage richness”. Located in the Aseer region, the project strategically aligns with the Kingdom’s Vision 20230 goals of expanding tourism and entertainment, supporting economic growth, attracting investments and creating thousands of direct and indirect job opportunities.

Soudah Peaks is expected to contribute more than 29 billion Saudi riyals [US$7.7 billion] to the Kingdom’s cumulative GDP, according to a press release.

HRH bin Salman said: “The masterplan reaffirms our commitment to global efforts in preserving the environment and natural resources for future generations and aims to contribute to diversifying national income sources and building a strong economy that attracts local and global investments.

“Soudah Peaks will be a significant addition to the tourism sector in Saudi Arabia and place the Kingdom on the global tourism map, whilst highlighting and celebrating the country’s rich culture and heritage. Visitors will have the opportunity to discover the beauty of Soudah Peaks, explore its rich culture and heritage, and experience the authentic hospitality of the local community.

“Soudah Peaks will offer unforgettable experiences amidst lush greenery, above the clouds,” he added.

The luxury tourism aims to welcome two million visitors each year by 2033 and will be home to six unique development zones: Tahlal; Sahab; Sabrah; Jareen; Rijal; and Red Rock. Each zone will offer a range of facilities, from hotels to luxury mountain resorts, residential chalets, villas, premium mansion sites, entertainment and commercial attractions, and outdoor attractions dedicated to sports, adventure, wellness and culture.

In all, Soudah Development is promising to deliver 2,700 hospitality keys, 1,336 residential units and 80,000 square metres of commercial space for Soudah Peaks within the next 10 years. The masterplan is set to be developed over three phases, with 940 hotel keys, 391 residential units, and 32,000 square metres of retail space expected to be completed in 2027, within phase one.

Set across more than 627 square kilometres, developers say that less than one per cent of the land being acquired is for building Soudah Peaks. They say that it reflects Soudah Development’s commitment to “protecting and preserving” the environment, following best-in-class sustainability standards and contributing to the efforts of the Saudi Green Initiative, which includes: planting 10 billion trees within an unspecified time frame; protecting 30 per cent of Saudi Arabia’s land and sea territories; and saving some of its endangered species.

Saudi Arabia and PIF’s ambitions for the future of tourism are clear.

In June, Habitas, a luxury hotel brand, experiential travel lodging and experiences company, received US$400 million [1.5 billion riyal] from the Saudi government and investment community as the Kingdom builds up to welcome a wave of international visitors in the coming years. The money, which was invested through a ‘Habitas Fund’ created by The Saudi Tourism Development Fund [TDF], is being allocated to supporting Habitas’ expansion across the Kingdom from two existing glamping-style campsites to six.

At the start of the year, it was revealed that Saudi Arabia is set to launch its own property rental portal to take on major global marketplaces such as Airbnb, after a new tourism law was approved that will require hosts and owners to obtain a permit and provide proof of ownership.

As part of Saudi Vision 2030, The National Tourism Strategy of Saudi Arabia wants to double the number of annual international and domestic travellers to the country to 100 million by 2030 and increase tourism’s share of the economy from three per cent to 10 per cent, a document on the fund’s website revealed. Such numbers could make Saudi Arabia one of the top five global tourism destinations in the world.

The broader strategy includes potential ventures to establish a new luxury airline and forge a $500 million e-sports destination, as well as bidding for major sporting events such as the 2029 Asian Winter Games, the 2030 FIFA World Cup [a joint bid with Egypt and Greece] and the Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2036.

Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler outlined his vision for tourism and economic growth in the Kingdom in an interview with Fox News journalist Bret Baier last week.

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