At a cost of $63.2 billion.. How does Diriyah plan to transform tourism in Saudi Arabia?
Saudi Arabia may have just begun its tourism journey, but it has boomed so much that the kingdom has focused its efforts on what it refers to as “megaprojects,” developments that are a key part of the Vision 2030 plan to create new economic ecosystems. and promote diversification.
The kingdom aims to attract 100 million visitors annually before 2030, which is no small goal given that it only received its first e-visa tourists in 2019.
On the outskirts of the Saudi capital, Riyadh, another mega project aims to attract 27 million of those visitors to a 14-square-kilometre site full of historical and cultural attractions.
Al-Diriyah is the home of the Al-Turaif district, which is included in the UNESCO World Heritage List, and the site of the first Saudi state, which was established in 1727.
A multi-billion dollar project
The Group CEO of the Diriyah Gate Development Authority, Jerry Inzerillo, has been tasked with making this happen.
As an expert who has worked in the hospitality sector for five decades, Inzerillo leads a team that aims to develop Diriyah as a flagship project for Vision 2030, provide unparalleled cultural experiences for visitors, and drive the economic growth of the Kingdom.
“We are committed to preserving and promoting the history and culture of the city, and we look forward to welcoming visitors from all over the world to bear witness to its beauty and be part of the legacy it represents,” Inzerillo emphasized.
The Diriyah project, worth $63.2 billion, is “one of the largest and most complex projects in the world,” according to Inzerillo.
The first phases of the master plan opened at the end of 2022, and include the Al-Turaif district, with galleries and new museums charting the history of Diriyah, along with the remains of the city walls, royal palaces, and mosques.
But the project is not limited to a number of restaurants and museums only.
Between Music and Lights
About 38 new hotels and resorts will open in Diriyah, including properties of famous brands such as “Ritz-Carlton”, “Park Hyatt” and “Raffles”, in addition to 6 museums, 26 cultural landmarks and more than 100 markets.
Six gardens with tens of thousands of trees will cover an area of 2.6 square kilometres, and will include walking, cycling and horseback riding paths.
Events will also be one of the main axes of the destination.
The 2022 edition of the Diriyah season started in October and continued until February 22.
The season included exciting events such as the “Formula E Diriyah 2023 race” in January, and concerts by artists such as John Legend, “French Montana” and Martin Garrix.
Diriyah’s palm groves are currently being transformed with the help of immersive light installations by international and Saudi artists as part of the “Diriyah Nights” sessions.
A team of 30 young Saudi guides is reviving heritage sites in the Al-Turaif district.
The team leads visitors through the galleries and touches on topics such as equestrianism, traditional architecture, currency and trade.
Visitors may find themselves exploring the site in the company of a member of the royal family, as the team of guides includes 30-year-old Princess Al Jawhara Abdul Mohsen Al Saud.
There is great hope that Diriyah will attract visitors interested in the Kingdom’s cultural heritage, as well as its interest in ambitious future projects.
Inzerillo is confident that Diriyah will achieve this, as he believes that it offers as much to Saudis as it does to visitors, giving everyone an opportunity to understand the culture, history and traditions of Saudi Arabia.