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Riyadh Expo 2030 to spur giga-project construction

Expo 2030 Reuters
SaudI Arabia promoted itself as host at a symposium in France early in November
  • Riyadh to host in 2030
  • $348m allocated
  • Pressure on labour expected

Saudi Arabia will host the World Expo 2030 in Riyadh, surpassing bids from Italy and South Korea in what analysts and officials said would be a boon for tourism and a spur to finish ambitious development projects on time. 

A total of 119 countries endorsed Riyadh’s candidacy during the 173rd general assembly of the Bureau International des Expositions held in Paris, the Saudi Press Agency said.

The event will run from October 1 2030 to March 31 2031.

“Saudi Arabia has become an ideal destination for hosting major international events, including the esteemed World Expo,” Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was quoted as saying. 

Foreign minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan bin Abdullah said the kingdom has allocated $348 million to host 100 countries eligible to participate in the Expo.

The Bureau International des Expositions delegation visited the Saudi capital in March to evaluate Riyadh’s candidacy, viewing presentations of the project and meeting with officials and key stakeholders.

“It’s a tight timeline to get everything constructed and will put additional pressure on resources, most notably labour,” said economic analyst James Reeve of Jadwa Investments. 

“But overall it’s a huge positive for the kingdom, which will allow it to showcase all that has, or will have been, achieved as a result of the Vision 2030 programme.” 

Saudi Arabia launched a vast economic reform programme in 2016 to diversify its economy away from oil, attracting foreign investment for giga-projects valued at more than $1.25 trillion, finding work for the country’s young population and developing tourism. 

It is already set to host the Asian Winter Games in 2029 at a mountain resort in Neom – a city in the north-west of the country – and is set to host the 2034 football World Cup. 

Jerry Inzerillo, CEO of Diriyah Gate, a historic quarter on the edge of Riyadh, said the event would showcase Riyadh as a world city. 

“The announcement is a testament to the scale of transformation and success that the kingdom has achieved,” he said.

“At least 28 million people are expected to visit the Expo. Riyadh will showcase the vibrant cultural heritage of the kingdom.” 

The World Expo – first held in London in 1851 – has become a major occasion for countries to highlight achievements, enhance their branding and encourage tourism. Staged every five years, it was held in Dubai in 2020 and Osaka in Japan will host it in 2025. 

The kingdom’s pavilion in Dubai recorded the largest number of visits to the 2020 exhibition, hosting more than 4.8 million visitors. 

Mansoor Ahmed, regional executive director at Colliers Research, said Expo 2030 would be an additional “catalyst for economic transformation” in Saudi Arabia and the region.

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