Saudi's $20bn Diriyah Gate on schedule to attract 'millions' of visitors

CEO of the Diriyah Gate Development Authority says waiting for green light on launching events amid coronavirus crisis

People will come to visit Saudi Arabia’s $20 billion Diriyah Gate giga-development “in their millions”, according to Jerry Inzerillo, CEO of the Diriyah Gate Development Authority (DGDA).

As part of Saudi’s Vision 2030, seven square kilometres of Diriyah, just 15 minutes north-west of Riyadh city centre, is being transformed into one of the kingdom’s most prominent tourist destinations, as well as a hub for culture and heritage, hospitality, retail and education.

Inzerillo told a media briefing in Riyadh, ahead of this year’s G20 Summit: “We have hundreds of activities planned for Diriyah. We’re just waiting for the good news when it’s safe to do so. The demand will be great and people will come. We’re ready and they will come by the millions.”

Diriyah Gate will include more than 20 hotels, a collection of museums, a retail heart and over 100 restaurants. The project includes a series of outdoor plazas as well as a 3km escarpment walk offering views across the historic Wadi Hanifah.

The American said the huge project is “on time” and “on budget” to start delivering as early as November 2021, despite the impact of the global Covid-19 pandemic.

Jerry Inzerillo, CEO of the Diriyah Gate Development Authority (DGDA)

As part of sweeping reforms announced by the Saudi Crown Prince, the kingdom threw open its doors to international tourists in September 2019, welcoming visitors from 55 countries and, at its peak, issuing up to 55,000 tourist visas-a-week.

Although that was forced to close down as a result of restrictions surrounding the virus, Inzerillo revealed they were ready and waiting to open up again – within the health and safety parameters issued by the government.

“We’re building the assets. The Crown Prince has not stopped any of the development. We haven’t lost any time with the Covid in our building,” he said. “So as soon as we get some good news inshallah on the Covid, then we’ll have the world media come, we’ll have all the guests come and everybody will see what we know, a beautiful kingdom with a warm, empathetic, welcoming society, and they’ll see one of the richest heritage and culture kingdoms in the world.”

Video: The mega projects set to redefine Saudi Arabia's tourism offering

Massive investment in mega tourism projects to the tune of $810 billion is expected to transform Saudi Arabia as one of the largest leisure tourism industries in the world over the next decade.

Inzerillo explained that the development will provide up to 55,000 job opportunities and contribute SR27 billion ($7.2 billion) to the Saudi GDP by 2030. He revealed that 81 percent of staff are from the kingdom and 36 percent are Saudi females – 16 percent of whom are in management roles with DGGA.

“There’s going to be thousands of opportunities uplifting all Saudis and especially the community of Diriyah,” he said.

As part of the Saudi presidency of the G20, the UNESCO-listed site of At-Turaif will play host to a Presidency Dinner on Friday before reopening to the public, following an extended period of Covid-enforced closure, at the start of December. And Inzerillo said it will add to the global list of iconic attractions.

Covid-19 won't stop Saudi mega-projects, says Diriyah Gate CEO

Diriyah Gate Development Authority CEO Jerry Inzerillo said that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has told planners to move “full speed ahead”

He said: “When you see Turaif, the same way someone goes to Greece and takes a picture of the Acropolis and takes a picture in Rome of the Colosseum, or in Paris of the Eiffel Tower or the Pyramids in Egypt; everyone that comes to the kingdom is going to take a picture in front of Turaif.”

At-Turaif, often billed by Saudi officials as the ‘jewel of the kingdom’, was founded as a permanent settlement in 1446 due to its fertile farmlands and date groves along the Wadi Hanifah valley.

The sprawling mud-brick capital city, with much influence owed to the Najdi architectural style of Arabia, was considered a vital part of the creation of the first Saudi state in 1744 and was soon an important political, religious and economic centre.

“Since March, we’ve put in new international standards of safety and security protocols to protect the UNESCO World Heritage Site and all of those who work there and all of those who visit,” said Inzerillo.

“The UNESCO site, after six months of capital improvement, has never been more beautiful, safer, cleaner and entertaining than it is now.”

Arabian Business: why we're going behind a paywall

Source: Read Full Article