Asir Region: The Arabian Highlands
Dubbed “the Arabian Highlands”, the Asir Region has long been a popular holiday destination amongst local Saudis and other Gulf families due to its cooler climate. With the majestic backdrop of lush greenery and cool nights, the region simply required more attractions to garner the attention of more international visitors. The mega-project also expects to develop part of the region into a luxury mountain resort destination, which will see the development of over 2,700 hotel rooms, 1,300 residential units and 30 unique commercial and entertainment attractions in the area. It is aiming to attract 2 million unique visitors each year and create 8,000 permanent jobs by 2030.
Photos courtesy of Soudah Development Company Website
The Asir Region is named after the Asīr tribe, and is home to Jabal Sawda and the Kingdom’s highest peak which rises to over 3,000 meters above sea level. The mountainous area of Soudah receives more rainfall than any other part of the Kingdom, resulting in significantly more vegetation and greenery. It was established as a National Park in 1981. The cool temperatures year round makes it a popular domestic tourist destination. Historically it has been known to be a region that produces coffee, wheat, alfalfa, barley, senna and frankincense and is known to be an area rich in natural biodiversity, culture and heritage.
The Soudah Development Company was established to help invest in this region as a key tourism destination within Saudi Arabia. Featuring sweeping valleys, thrilling hiking trails and the serene views of mountains nestled among refreshing rain clouds, the Soudah Development Project seeks to invest $13.3 billion USD into the region to create a luxury mountain retreat covering 627 square kilometers with a unique cultural appeal to international travelers. By 2030, Soudah Development projects 2 million visitors will be coming to the region annually.
Soudah Development Company is not only overseeing the construction and development of luxury hotels along the beautiful mountain range, but also looking to develop local talent and protect its natural resources.
Currently there is a scholarship program established to send some of the brightest young Saudis in the Asir region to the top culinary, hospitality and business management schools in Switzerland to be trained and return home. The diplomas offered are with The Swiss Hotel Management School, Cesar Ritz Colleges Switzerland, the Culinary Arts Academy, and the Hotel Institute Montreux. This will ensure the tourism destination is managed and built upon local talents for generations to come.
The Soudah Development Company also has committed to planting 1 million trees within the next eight years, aiming to reduce carbon emissions by 4%. The company has also been working closely with the National Centre for Wildlife, recently releasing 15 endangered mountain ibexes in the region to enrich the area's biodiversity.
The first $3 billion USD has been earmarked to be spent on the development of roads and infrastructure projects, including energy and microgrid projects. The rest of the masterplan is expected to be revealed in 2022.
“We plan to set new benchmarks in sustainable development by creating a regulatory framework that preserves the environment, restores ecological balance and protects natural resources as a vital part of protecting endangered species. These new initiatives will help us make good progress as we move forward with our exciting plans to create a sustainable mountain tourism destination on Saudi Arabia’s highest peak.”
— Husameddin Al Madani, CEO of Soudah Development
Photo courtesy of Arab News
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