SAUDI ARABIA - Tourism
CEO, Saudi Tourism Development Fund
Qusai Al-Fakhri currently serves as CEO of the Tourism Development Fund of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Prior to that, Qusai served as an investment advisor to the Minister of Tourism. Al-Fakhri is a seasonal banker possessing more than 20 years’ experience in corporate and investment banking gained at local as well as international institutions.
What is TDF’s mandate?
Qusai Al-Fakhri: Saudi Arabia has all the key ingredients for a thriving tourism destination. Its geographical location, historical sites, rich culture, growing population, and strong purchasing power provide the Kingdom with some of the world’s best tourism investment opportunities. TDF was established to enable its investors to access a country that opened its doors to tourists in 2019 and is primed for development. Our role is to drive growth in the immensely promising tourism industry by enabling private sector investments. We provide financial and non-financial solutions to SMEs and large investors to enable investments across geographies and sectors in alignment with the Saudi National Tourism Strategy, which aims to increase the number of visits to Saudi Arabia to 100 million by 2030.
What are the mechanisms that ensure quality to match the growing number of tourists?
Qusai Al-Fakhri: TDF assesses every opportunity with significant consideration, and we are conscious that suitable mechanisms must be in place to ensure that large numbers of tourists are welcomed and that they also truly experience the Kingdom’s world-class offerings. The Ministry of Tourism recently issued a new licensing and classification model as well as service quality reviews for the hospitality sector in Saudi Arabia, and these will help ensure all tourists receive a high-quality experience in the Kingdom. We are focused on delivering what we define as “game-changer” projects, often bringing innovative concepts to the Kingdom, or even region, for the first time. For example, we recently established a SAR 1.5-billion joint investment fund between Ennismore and Al Rajhi Capital, as well as a strategic partnership with Melia Hotels International worth SAR 1.1 billion. We also have agreements with Playa Hotels and Resorts, which will bring its unique all-inclusive concept to the Kingdom, and the Deutsche Hospitality Group, who will introduce the first Steigenberger Porsche Hotels in the Middle East. These are only the beginning: we have a strong pipeline of projects that will provide unparalleled offerings to encourage tourists to visit Saudi Arabia.
What subsectors within tourism is TDF helping grow?
Qusai Al-Fakhri: TDF has identified six sub-sectors that are primed for growth. These are tourism destinations and attractions, tourism and travel services, accommodation, tourism experiences and activities, F&B within tourist destinations, and tourism retail. These sectors provide significant investment opportunities for investors, and momentum continues to grow every day. Accommodation and tourism experiences and activities, in particular, are sectors that we have earmarked for solid growth over the coming year, having signed a series of MoUs with leading entities in these spaces. We also seek to expand our affiliations across other sectors that impact the future of tourism, including closer collaboration between private and government sectors.
How does TDF enable the ecosystem?
Qusai Al-Fakhri: TDF has unlocked capital of SAR 22.6 billion and added 7,500 hotel rooms to the Saudi tourism industry. Beyond that, the fund also offers a range of opportunities beyond simple funding. TDF can support investors with finding the right land to develop, sourcing the latest data on the local market, promoting regional culture, and working with investors to ensure the projects fulfil the correct criteria and include the right components. These are all ways in which TDF is taking a holistic approach to driving regional economic growth and supporting domestic tourism.
What are your goals and objectives for 2022?
Qusai Al-Fakhri: We remain committed to our long-term strategy, building upon our successes to further enhance the Kingdom’s tourism value proposition. In 2021, we marked several milestones, including strategic partnerships that introduced revolutionary concepts and offerings to the Saudi tourism landscape. These are projects with tangible impact for the Kingdom that will enable TDF to contribute to realizing Saudi Vision 2030. We will continue to drive forward our mandate of unlocking the entire tourism value chain, developing the economy, maximizing private-sector investor participation, and preserving capital.
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