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Jeddah - Yasmine El Tohamy - RIYADH: The Public Investment Fund has established a new company to develop the historic Jeddah district of Al Balad into a global tourist destination.
Al Balad Development Co. will work to improve the infrastructure of the region, supervise the restoration of historical buildings in the area, and develop service facilities, according to a statement from PIF.
It will also oversee the creation of 9,300 homes and 1,800 hotel units, across an area of 2.5 million sq. meters.
Developing the tourism sector is a crucial part of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 – the Kingdom’s plan to diversify its economy away from oil.
Saudi Arabia aims to attract over 100 million visitors by 2030, along with increasing the tourism sector’s contribution to the Kingdom’s gross domestic product to more than 10 percent.
In its statement, PIF noted that the newly formed company is expected to offer attractive investment opportunities and quality commercial options for the people of Jeddah.
“The company will collaborate with the private sector and specialists to develop the area’s infrastructure according to the best standards of urban planning for historic areas, taking into account environmental sustainability and preserving the unique heritage of Historic Jeddah: a UNESCO World Heritage site,” added PIF.
The development will also see the creation 1.3 million sq. meters of commercial and office space.
The launch of the new company comes alongside the “Revitalize Historic Jeddah” initiative launched by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in 2021.
That in itself was part of the “Historic Jeddah Development Project” which aims to transform the ancient town into a hub for business, tourism, and cultural activities.
The first phase of this development entails carving out the waterfront that had previously been filled to accommodate Jeddah’s urban expansion, while the second part will concentrate on creating an infrastructure for a new area and waterfront.
The third phase of the project includes building a marina, open green spaces, pedestrian overpasses and public utilities.
Earlier this month, Al-Balad, popularly referred to as the heart and soul of Jeddah, was nominated in the “Most Desirable City — Rest of World” category for the Wanderlust Travel Award.
Al-Balad area is home to more than 600 heritage buildings, 36 historical mosques, five major historical markets, ancient corridors and squares, and a major route for pilgrims since the dawn of Islam.
PIF has been spearheading the Kingdom’s economic diversification efforts since the launch of Vision 2030.
According to its latest annual report, the soverign wealth fund currently holds assets under management worth SR2.23 trillion ($595 billion).
It has already established 70 companies, with 25 of them founded in 2022, including Saudi Coffee Co. and Halal Products Development Co.
In 2022 alone, PIF-owned companies created over 181,000 jobs, the annual report added.
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