Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) has upped its focus on the country’s recently opened tourism sector as the oil and gas-rich conservative Islamic kingdom looks to open itself up to foreign tourists in a bid to diversify its economy.
PIF, which is one of the biggest sovereign wealth funds in the world, has set up a subsidiary named Aseer Investment Company (AIC) to operate as its investment arm in the Aseer region in the desert country. PIF said that AIC will promote local and foreign direct investment to develop the region into a year-round tourism destination.
The development comes barely months after the PIF acquired a 30% stake in local travel and tourism company Almosafer for about $412 million.
The wealth fund, which has diversified interests from energy to gaming and from infrastructure to the digital and tech economy, said that AIC will help attract a wide range of investment opportunities for domestic and international investors across a number of sectors. These include tourism, hospitality, healthcare, sports, education, food, and many other fast-growing domestic industries, to contribute to fostering public-private partnerships, creating jobs for the local community, and promoting the region’s tourism and attractive investment opportunities.
Raid Ismail, Head of Direct Investments for the Middle East and North Africa at PIF said: “Aseer Investment Company aims to become a leading facilitator of broad-ranging investment opportunities in Aseer.”
“AIC will promote the region’s rugged mountains, stunning nature, and storied culture, preserve its ancient history and heritage, and transform it into a world-class tourist destination for visitors from across the globe in line with PIF’s strategy and Vision 2030.”
The announcement comes even as Saudi Arabia has recently opened itself up to foreign tourists as part of a slew of measures toward liberalisation announced by its de-facto ruler Mohammad Bin Salman.
In fact, PIF is reportedly looking to invest billions of dollars into the country’s tourism sector via another entertainment arm, the Saudi Entertainment Ventures (SEVEN).
SEVEN is a wholly owned subsidiary of the PIF and is set to spend a total of SAR 50 billion ($13.3 billion) to develop 21 entertainment destinations that will feature 150 attractions across 14 cities in Saudi Arabia, according to a statement.
SEVEN has also partnered with international brands, including Warner Bros, to bring global attractions to the kingdom.
Construction of one of the destinations, estimated to cost SAR 3 billion, has already begun and it will rise in the Al Hamra district of Riyadh.
Apart from Riyadh, the projects will be developed in Makkah, Jeddah, Dammam, Kharj, Taif, Khobar, Al Ahsa, Madinah, Yanbu, Abba, Jazan, Buraidah and Tabuk.