Saudi Arabia has begun working on its’ mega heritage tourism project, Souq Okaz City in Taif, expected to cost around $2 billion.
The city will cover 10 million sqm in the city of Taif and will feature museums, recreational areas, hotels, schools and a convention centre.
The city will be built in partnership of the private and public sector, with the private sector expected to cover 89 percent of the investment, according to the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage (SCTH).
The approved budget, under the National Transformation Program 2020, is SAR 815m ($217m), which has been reserved for creating infrastructure projects, cultural recreational and educational projects.
Eighteen projects have been saved for the private sector including, recreational parks, heritage and shopping villages, open souks, accommodation inns, ecological camps, heritage lodges, shopping malls, spa and treatment centres, hotels, business centres, social club, international schools, health clubs, sport facilities, furnished tourist apartments, health tourism complexes, and tourist accommodation complexes.
The project is forecasted to create over 15,000 jobs, of which 80 percent will be reserved for Saudi nationals.
As part of the project, the wider Souq Okaz City will also develop a suburb with housing to accommodate 750,000 people, an international airport with capacity for 5 million passengers a year in its’ first phase, a technology hub, Taif University and an industrial city.
The Vision 2030 strategy aims to increase the number of tourists visiting the Kingdom to 1.5 million by 2020 and increase tourism related revenue to 18 percent in the next 14 years. Currently, there are approximately 200,000 tourists visiting the Kingdom each year.
Last year, the kingdom approved the issuance of tourist visas under the Vision 2030 strategy to diversify the economy away from oil.