Saudi Arabia prepares for third annual Future Investment Initiative


Authorities in Saudi Arabia are putting the finishing touches to the agenda for the upcoming annual Future Investment Initiative.

The event will take place in Riyadh from October 29th-31st, with the Ritz-Carlton, Riyadh – recognised with a number of titles at the World Travel Awards – once again playing host.

Organised by the Public Investment Fund, the third edition of the showcase will explore the trends, opportunities and challenges shaping the global investment landscape.

It will be hosted by prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz, the crown prince of Saudi Arabia.

This year, the Future Investment Initiative will bring together decision makers, leading investors and global experts to explore future economic trends and opportunities.

Authorities hope the event will also shed light on the future of industries, while delegates will discuss how investment can continue to drive overall global prosperity and development.

The event will be organised around the overall theme of ‘What is next for global business?’ and will focus on three key pillars:

  • Sustainable future: Exploring new innovations and investment models that can support profit, people and planet.
  • Technology for good: Business and policy frameworks that can guide the future growth of the tech industry.
  • Advanced society: Cultural and organisational systems that can inspire humanity in the age of machines.

Alongside the main program, FII will also host three summits, looking at how changes in business, entertainment and society are driving innovation and creating investment opportunities:

  • Immersive work: How changes in technology, demography and business models are altering the nature of work.
  • Interactive entertainment: How innovations, globalization and consumer behaviours impact the worlds of sports, leisure and entertainment.
  • Interconnected society: How governments around the world are attempting to integrate intelligent systems, advanced mobility, new educational models and greater cultural awareness into their cities and communities/

As part of Future Investment Initiative goal to build relationships and encourage in-depth discussion, the event will host twelve cross-sector taskforces, designed to explore emerging business and investment trends and to identify early-stage growth opportunities.

These taskforces will cover topics related to social, energy, climate, technology, healthcare, data, transportation, food, tourism, sport, retail and youth.

In the past, the Future Investment Initiative has proven to be a substantial international platform for expert-led debate between investors, innovators and governments as well as economic leaders since it was launched in 2017.

The 2018 edition of the event saw more than US$60 billion worth of agreements announced over the three days.

These agreements included major investments across a range of sectors, including energy, housing, healthcare and ICT.

Future Investment Initiative 2018 attracted more than 3,500 participants from 88 countries, including representation from eight heads of state and more than 20 international ministers.


The Ritz-Carlton, Riyadh, will once again host the event

The event comes as Saudi authorities continue to loosen restrictions on travel in the country.

Following a decree from authorities, unmarried foreign couples are now allowed to rent hotel rooms together in the country for the first time.

The move is part of a wider drive to boost the tourism sector.

Having revealed a new visa regime in September, officials confirmed the latest changes earlier.

Under the new rules, women will also be allowed to stay in hotel rooms alone.

Couples previously had to prove they were married before getting a hotel room – but now these rules have been relaxed for foreigners

“All Saudi nationals are asked to show family ID or proof of relationship on checking into hotels,” the Saudi Commission for Tourism & National Heritage said in a statement.

“This is not required of foreign tourists.

“All women, including Saudis, can book and stay in hotels alone, providing ID on check-in.”

The new visa regulations state that female tourists are not required to fully cover up but are still expected to dress modestly.

Alcohol remains banned.


Saudi Arabia is currently undergoing a hospitality revolution

The Middle Eastern kingdom also unveiled plans for a new visa regime for 49 countries earlier this year.

The plans were unveiled at a gala event at Ad-Diriyah, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Riyadh.

Saudi tourism minister, Ahmad al-Khateeb, described it as a “historic moment” for the country.

Visas have until now largely been restricted to pilgrims, business travellers and expatriate workers.

It is part of a wider move by the country to reduce its dependence on oil under the Vision 2030 banner.

Officials in Saudi Arabia said the country wants tourism to rise from three to ten per cent of gross domestic product by 2030.

“Visitors will be surprised by the treasures we have to share – five UNESCO World Heritage Sites, a vibrant local culture and breathtakingly natural beauty,” al-Khateeb added.

Attractions include Madain Saleh in Al-Ula, the largest conserved site of the Nabataean civilisation, the At-Turaif District in Ad-Diriyah, the first capital of the Saudi state, and historic Jeddah.

Also on offer is the rock art in the Hail Region, which depicts 10,000-year old inscriptions of human and animal figures, and the Al-Ahsa Oasis, the largest oasis in the world.

There are also a number of industry leading properties on offer, including the Al Faisaliah Hotel, recognised as the Middle East’s Leading Luxury Suites Hotel by voters at the World Travel Awards, and the Ritz-Carlton, Jeddah, acknowledged as Saudi Arabia’s Leading Conference Hotel.

“We believe our friends and our guests will respect the culture, but definitely it is modest, and it will be very clear,” al-Khateeb added.

Non-Muslims will still not be allowed to visit the holy cities of Mecca and Medina and the ban on alcohol will be maintained.


Tourism minister, Ahmad al-Khateeb, is seeking to lead a transformation of the sector in Saudi Arabia

The move to open up tourism is central to crown prince Mohammed bin Salman’s wider economic reform programme that aims to reduce the kingdom’s focus on oil.

Under the plan, Saudi Arabia wants to increase international and domestic visits to 100 million a year by 2030.

The government expects to create one million tourism jobs.

In 2017 Saudi Arabia announced a massive tourism development project that will turn 50 islands and other sites on the Red Sea into luxury resorts.

The Red Sea Development Project is a closed joint-stock company wholly owned by the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia.

It was established to drive the development of the Red Sea Project, a luxury tourism destination that will set new standards in sustainable development and position Saudi Arabia on the global tourism map.

The project will be developed over 28,000 km2 of pristine land on Saudi Arabia’s west coast and includes a vast archipelago of more than 90 islands.

The destination also features mountain canyons, dormant volcanoes and ancient cultural and heritage sites.

The destination will include hotels, residential properties, leisure, commercial and entertainment amenities, as well as supporting infrastructure that emphasises renewable energy and water conservation and re-use.

Activity for the first phase of development, which focuses on enabling the infrastructure to support future work, is well underway.