For a new era of sustainable mountain tourism in Saudi Arabia, Soudah Development has proposed an expansive 627 square kilometres of land in the Sarwat Mountains as part of a $3 billion project.
Soudah Development, a firm owned by the Saudi Public Investment Fund, said it expects to invest SR11 billion ($2.93 billion) as it spearheads a new age of sustainable mountain tourism, as part of the Kingdom’s ambitious environmental action plans.
Ninety percent of the Kingdom's plant life is found in the project area, which is 627 square kilometres in size and includes Soudah mountain and the mountain settlement of Rijal Alma in the Sarwat Mountains in the southwestern Asir region.
The business warned that climate change threatens the "nationally unique and biologically diversified ecology" of Soudah and Rijal Almaa. "We want to create a greener future that unleashes the potential of sustainable tourism by restoring biodiversity, increasing vegetation cover, and rewilding broad swaths of territory."
Soudah, at an altitude of 3,015 metres, is Saudi Arabia's tallest mountain.
Up to SR3 billion will be directed toward major infrastructure improvements that will provide social and economic dividends to the local community, according to Soudah Development. "We plan to develop 2,700 hotel rooms, 1,300 residential units, and 30 commercial and entertainment attractions to create a luxury mountain tourism destination high above the clouds," the company said.
We expect to contribute significantly to the diversification of the Saudi economy by bringing in over two million tourists annually, providing employment for eight thousand people, and increasing the GDP of the Kingdom by a total of twenty-nine billion Saudi riyals by the year 2030.
The company, which was founded as a closed joint-stock real estate development firm by Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman last year, took part in the second Saudi Green Initiative Forum, which was held last week in Sharm El-Sheikh in conjunction with the United Nations Climate Change Conference, COP27. A proposal to grow over a million trees by 2030 was one of three major sustainability efforts detailed.
In addition to the ongoing reforestation drive, the platform "highlighted two more environmental projects: plans to reintroduce endangered wildlife, such as mountain ibex and gazelle, to their native habitats; and a comprehensive initiative to rewild protected areas to safeguard biodiversity and restore ecological balance," it said.
Soudah Development, established in February 2021 and an affiliate member of the United Nations' World Tourism Organization, has stated that its primary commitment is to protect Soudah, but that it also aims to promote the area as a global luxury tourist destination while helping to combat climate change in line with the goals of the SGI. According to the firm, this is reflected in initiatives like its pledge to plant a million trees in support of SGI's lofty aim of planting 10 billion trees by 2030.
According to the firm, "up to 25 tonnes of carbon dioxide will be absorbed by the forest under this effort," helping the Kingdom reach its goals of being carbon neutral by 2060, reducing carbon emissions by 4%, and increasing protected areas to more than 30% of the country's total land area.
It has partnered with the National Center for Vegetation Cover and Combating Desertification, the National Center for Environmental Compliance, the National Center for Wildlife Development, and the National Center for Waste Management, all of which fall under the purview of the Ministry of Environment.
Soudah Development is also the region’s only member of the UN Mountain Partnership, and its plans for Soudah and Rijal Almaa, and its efforts to promote sustainability, have gained a significant endorsement and recognition from the UN General Assembly.
This "means the world is finally taking notice of our efforts to advocate serious action to fight climate change and achieve the 17 (UN) Sustainable Development Goals," the corporation added.