change take

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

—Josh Corder

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

The AlWadi project is located in the kingdom’s Aseer region, which has long been an agricultural center of the country. However, within the next three years it will be a tourist and commercial center, one of many that the country is building under the banner of economic diversification and improving the quality of life of locals.

AlWadi – meaning “the valley” – will cover 2.5 million square meters and will be developed with sustainability in mind, according to PIF. Spread across five districts, AlWadi will feature residential, hotel and recreational developments that will be implemented in the first phase 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 expected to contribute more than SAR 19 billion (approximately $5.08 billion) to the country’s non-oil GDP by 2030, creating thousands of jobs for local communities in the region.

Qiddiya tourism school announced

A lot of money is being invested in Saudi Arabia’s tourism infrastructure, including new airports, airlines and travel destinations the same size as a small country. To service these ambitious companies, 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 more than $1 billion, to be inaugurated at the Qiddiya gigaproject. Called Riyadh School of Tourism and Hospitality, its campus will span 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 donates $250,000 to charity for people with disabilities in the United Arab Emirates

American hotel group Hilton has pledged $250,000 to the Sedra Foundation, a United Arab Emirates charity that works to improve the quality of life 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 largest in its history.

As part of the grant, Hilton will support Sedra to provide more jobs and vocational training for disabled youth across all hotels. Since 2021, Hilton and Sedra have hired 30 disabled young people in the operator’s local hotel network.

Dubai’s revamped La Mer district announces new hotel

The first new hotel in Dubai’s La Mer area since the surrounding area was demolished last year has been announced. Original developers Meeras are back with Port de La Mer, five minutes 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 premium brand when it opens in 2025. Aimed at a cooler city crowd, the hotel will feature an on-site Zuma restaurant, which has long been one of the most popular in the city. Popular dining spots in the nearby DIFC business district.

Abha airport announces expansion master plan

In addition to the creation of Ardara to develop developments in the Saudi region of Aseer, the area’s main airport will also be expanded. Abha International Airport will be expanded to 65,000 square meters as planned, with the first phase to be completed in 2028, up from the current 10,500 square meters of the existing airport. The airport’s capacity will increase to accommodate more than 13 million passengers per year, ten times more than the current capacity of 1.5 million. It will also handle more than 90,000 flights a year, a significant increase from the current 30,000 flights. In addition, the new airport will have 20 boarding gates and 41 check-in counters.

Seaplane company created to take guests to luxury hotels in Saudi Arabia

Fly Red Sea is operational: Saudi Arabia’s seaplane company, currently operating between the Red Sea International Airport and three unopened hotels. The company is a subsidiary of the development company Red Sea Global, which builds archipelagos and luxury hotels along the Red Sea coast. Fly Red Sea has an initial fleet of four Cessna Caravan 208 floatplanes, and plans to have nine by 2028 and 20 two years later. Red Sea Global group chief executive John Pagano said the company would “prioritise providing skilled and rewarding career opportunities to the Saudi people”, as part of the country’s focus on increasing the percentage of local staff in the tourism industry.

Red Sea Global acquires a second airport

Also in the Red Sea news, the developer has announced his project outside of those he is developing himself. RSG was awarded the contract to renovate Al Wajh Airport (EJH), which it will expand to serve its own destinations. The main objective of this project is to modernize the airport, aligning it with global standards. In addition to upgrading the current terminal and infrastructure, RSG is in the process of building a new international terminal, with the presentation of its designs planned for the near future.

Emaar continues building Dubai Creek port

Dubai real estate major Emaar is rapidly building on its Dubai Creek Port project. The private company bought the area from Dubai Holding last year using cash and shares. Shortly after the sale, Emaar’s Address hotel brand debuted in the area and now its more affordable Vida brand has arrived as well.

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