The U.S.-Saudi Business Council interviewed Husameddin AlMadani, CEO of Soudah Development Company, on the exciting opportunities for both tourists and investors in the Asir Region. Soudah Development expects a surge in employment opportunities for locals and environmentally sustainable amenities for tourists to follow the government’s significant tourism investments in the area. Mr. AlMadani spoke about the attractions and natural beauty of the region that attract visitors year after year, including hiking, biking, skydiving, hang-gliding, off-road driving, nature walks, and the unique displays of historic architecture and cultural events in Soudah’s mountain villages.
What is Soudah?
“Soudah is a unique natural destination on the highest mountain peak of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, offering adventure and authentic cultural experiences in a serene setting. This green mountainous region is located in the Kingdom’s southwest near Abha, a city of more than one million people in the Asir region. Situated at 3,015 meters above sea level, Public Investment Fund (PIF) company Soudah Development is creating a luxury mountain tourism destination that will redefine hospitality.
The altitude and clean, cool air in Soudah make it a perfect year-round destination where visitors can hike, bike, and paraglide any time they wish. But these valleys and mountains offer so much more than adventure; Soudah is celebrated for its unique culture, rich heritage and authenticity, too. There are historic buildings that are more than 500 years old. Archeologists have discovered rock inscriptions they believe could be between 5-6,000 years old. Unique customs and traditions, such as local clothing, folk songs, food, dance, poetry, calligraphy and art are widely practiced and celebrated.”
What are SD’s current development plans?
“People from Saudi Arabia and the region have always enjoyed coming to Soudah, but our aim is to share the nature beauty, immersive cultural experiences, locally-produced food and extraordinary wildlife with the world. To do so, Soudah Development plans to develop 2,700 hotel rooms, 1,300 residential units and 30 experiential attractions to become the newest year-round visitor destination within the Kingdom.
Driving tourism and entertainment growth comes under the Saudi Vision 2030 blueprint for socioeconomic progress and the company plays a key role as one of the major PIF projects. The project will also create more than 8,000 employment opportunities by 2030.
Development follows the highest international sustainable standards, and the company works with in synchrony with the nature. More than one million trees will be planted across Soudah and Rijal Almaa in line with Saudi Green Initiative. This also aims to reduce carbon emissions by 4 percent and raise protected areas to more than 30 percent.”
What opportunities are there for U.S. companies to participate in SD projects?
“Soudah Development is actively seeking both domestic and foreign direct investment to create a luxury mountain destination with immersive cultural experiences that simultaneously celebrate the region’s natural landscape. Plans are under way to create the first tourism-related economic development zone in Saudi Arabia. It will provide investors and business with 100 percent foreign ownership, enhance ease of doing business and promote the attractiveness and competitiveness of Soudah and parts of Rijal Almaa.
Given the deep and historical trade, economic and investment ties between the U.S. and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, U.S. companies will have an important role to play in the project. There are tremendous areas for greater potential cooperation on both development and operational levels for hotel operators, F&B and hospitality, smart cities technologies, construction and real estate, sports and entertainment.
The long-term project offers an array of investment opportunities with the goal of creating mutually beneficial partnerships within the public and private sectors. For investors, the opportunity is to be part of a brownfield project that will create thousands of new jobs and set a new direction for tourism, entertainment, hospitality, wellness, adventure and sustainable development.”
Read more about tourism, leisure, and entertainment in the Asir region and beyond in our latest Economic Brief.