The developer behind an ambitious plan to transform a historic Saudi town into a sprawling tourism destination is set to splash out $10 billion on the project next year.
The $63 billion project at Diriyah, a Unesco World Heritage site northwest of Riyadh that was the ancestral home of the ruling family, is set to feature dozens of hotels and thousands of homes. The Diriyah Gate Development Authority spent $7.5 billion last year building out infrastructure at the 14 square-kilometer project, CEO Jerry Inzerillo said in an interview.
“It’s meant to be the largest pedestrian-friendly cultural heritage city,” Inzerillo said, adding that the first hotel is set to open this year. Funding so far has come from the government and foreign investors, he said. “I’ll spend $10 billion in 2024.”
The development will include as many as 30,000 homes, 42 hotels, 9 museums, 100 restaurants and a golf course. It’s a high priority for King Salman and for his son, Crown Prince Mohammed, who is the kingdom’s de facto ruler.
The project is one of many the government is bankrolling as part of its efforts to become a travel hotspot. The kingdom, which aims to attract 70 million international tourists a year by 2030, is spending billions of dollars on new resorts and has set up a new airline.
The Public Investment Fund oversees The Diriyah Co., which it plans to list on the country’s stock exchange by 2027, Inzerillo said. He expects the firm to generate $100 million in revenue next year, and while banks have been hired to advise on preparations for the share sale, any IPO will likely happen after the company has built a “very substantial revenue base”.
The Diriyah authority plans to complete most of the 86 main assets, including hotels, museums and performing arts centers by 2030. Construction at Diriyah Square, set to feature thousands of homes, will finish by 2027.
Two developments within the mega project — including single family homes and exclusive villas — will be sold to investors ahead of construction, Inzerillo said. The company is in talks with private developers from across the Gulf who’re looking to take part in the project, he said, without naming the firms.
“We’re on time, we’re on budget and we’re moving very quickly now,” he said.