France and Saudi Arabia have announced a “major partnership” to develop the area of Al-Ula, a historic site in the Kingdom that is part of its push to bring in tourists and open the Kingdom up to investment.
According to The National, the new partnership will take place in three phases, with the first being completed in 2023 at a projected cost of between $3 billion and $4 billion, and by 2035, the total development is scheduled to be finished at a cost of between $19 billion and $25 billion.
The Saudi-France partnership was announced at the institute, coinciding with the opening its archaeological exhibition on Al–Ula. Saudi Minister of Culture and Governor of the Royal Commission for Al-Ula Province Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Mohammed bin Farhan opened the exhibition with the participation of French Minister of Culture Franck Riester and the President of the Arab World Institute Jack Lang, in the presence of a number of Saudi princes and officials, according to Asharq Alawsat.
The 400 Saudis and 30 French, led by Gérard Mestrallet, will work closely together. Mestrallet is chairman of the board of directors of Engie, a French multinational electric utility company.
The plan calls for Al Ula to become an open-air museum, with cultural sites, museums and wildlife reserves, The National reports.
Archaeologists are planning to carry out the first international, in-depth survey of Al-Ula in Saudi Arabia and the surrounding areas “the size of Belgium” in order to better understand the Nabatean people.
Recently, Saudi Arabia opened its borders up to visiting tourists with the launch of an e-visa for tourists. The Kingdom is also hoping to secure foreign investment in the tourism industry in an effort to increase the tourism’s sector’s contribution to 10% of GDP by 2030 and create 1 million tourist jobs.