Our Saudi Round-Up series delivers you the top news stories across the Kingdom so you can stay abreast of the latest business activity in Saudi Arabia. This week’s round-up looks at Saudi resilience, expansion, and sustainability in the economy, esports and gaming, insurance, tourism, and transportation.
From the 16th of January to the 22nd of January, 2024
General Business and Economy
NDMC’s $9.6 Billion Strategy for Saudi Resilience
Saudi Arabia’s National Debt Management Center’s Annual Borrowing Plan Report 2024 highlights the Kingdom’s responsible and professional management of public debt to balance risks and returns on investments. Saudi Arabia has an A credit rating with Fitch, Moody’s, and S&P.
Among the NDMC’s activities, it aims to showcase the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 agenda for diversification and development. The report underlines the Kingdom’s solid foundation for sustained fiscal stability, a position that allows it to make the most of upcoming opportunities for investment and growth.
2,811 Saudi Firms Poised for Expansion
According to the Ministry of Commerce, 2,811 establishments have altered their organizational structures to facilitate growth. This shows a 16% increase from September 2023, when 2,423 businesses changed their structures for the same purposes.
Furthermore, there was an increase in establishments transitioning into companies, from 2,335 in the third quarter to 2,722 in the last quarter of 2023. Establishments modifying their structures to become joint-stock companies more than doubled from seven to 15 compared with third-quarter activity.
This growth, led by Riyadh, Makah, and the Eastern Province, is evidence of Saudi Arabia’s commitment to meeting the challenges of economic diversification and creating a prosperous investment environment in line with Vision 2030.
Esports and Gaming
Major Gaming Uplift Expected Via 125 New Centers
True Gamers, the UAE-based esports network, is planning to set up 150 gaming centers across the Kingdom, doubling the company’s current network and improving accessibility to video game entertainment in Saudi’s burgeoning esports and gaming market.
This strategic expansion, in line with Vision 2030, will see a $45 million investment in the Kingdom’s esports infrastructure.
Saudi Arabia is home to an estimated 21 million gamers, which is more than half of the country’s population. The gaming industry is set to reach $2.8 billion in the country by 2026.
Health Drives 22% Growth in the Insurance Sector
Health insurance is a primary driver of Saudi insurance growth according to Saudi Central Bank data, which noted a 22% increase in gross written premiums to $13.05 billion compared to the corresponding period in the previous year.
The health insurance sector has witnessed significant growth, driven by mandatory health coverage in the private sector. Beneficiaries increased 18% to 11.5 million at the end of 2022 and the sector predicts 25 million beneficiaries and a contribution of GDP of $15.25 billion by 2030.
Saudi Tourism Forum to Boost Partnerships
The second Saudi Tourism Forum, held in Riyadh, is set to boost awareness of the investment and development opportunities across the Kingdom.
The forum, hosted by the Saudi Tourism Ministry in collaboration with the Red Sea Authority, the Saudi Tourism Authority, and the Tourism Development Fund, will drive partnerships among Saudi tourism stakeholders as the country undergoes sector-wide transformation, including a 156% increase in tourists in 2023 compared to 2019. Furthermore, according to the Saudi Central Bank, tourism revenues reached more than $26.66 billion during the first three quarters of 2023.
PIF’s Adventure Tourism Plan: THE RIG
The Saudi Public Investment Fund has unveiled a new diverse water sports and adventure tourism location.
Inspired by the design of offshore oil platforms, THE RIG celebrates the Kingdom’s rich history in oil and gas and symbolizes the Kingdom’s sustainable economic growth. Located 40 km from the coastline near Al Juraid Island, THE RIG covers 300,000 square meters. It’s expected to attract over 900,000 domestic, regional, and international visitors per year by 2032.
Red Sea Celebrates 2023 and Outlines 2024 Goals
Saudi developer Red Sea Global (RSG) ended 2023 with 21 subsidiaries and several notable landmarks to its name, making it a key driver of the Vision 2030 plan for development and diversification.
In 2024, the firm is set to continue creating new destinations to attract tourism, including 11 luxury hotels on Shoural Island and a sustainability-focused staff village for workers at Amaala. RSG will continue to reflect Saudi Arabia’s sustainable development goals, and shine as a model of positive transformation through regenerative tourism.
156% surge in tourism growth
Saudi Arabia experienced a remarkable 156% surge in tourist arrivals in 2023 compared to 2019, leading the Middle East in global tourism recovery, according to the UN World Tourism Barometer report.
The Kingdom played a pivotal role in the Middle East's exceptional performance as the only region surpassing pre-pandemic levels, attracting 122 percent more tourists in 2023 than in 2019. Global tourism, as a whole, reached 88 percent of pre-pandemic levels, with international tourism receipts estimated at $1.4 trillion in 2023, reflecting a robust recovery driven by strong domestic and international tourism.
Kingdom Transforms Transportation Infrastructure to Address Climate Challenges and Rapid Urbanization
The transportation sector accounts for a third of the world’s energy consumption, second to the industrial sector, which is why there’s a pressing need for change in this industry. The Kingdom is transforming its transportation sector with innovative solutions that should serve as a model for others around the world dealing with climate challenges as well as population growth and rapid urbanization.
Aside from aiming for 30% of Riyadh’s automobiles to be electric by 2030, the Kingdom also wants to make public transport electric and encourage consumers to use sustainable alternatives to private vehicles.
One of the companies integral to meeting Vision 2030’s sustainable travel and tourism goals is NEOM Mobility, which is set to turn travel into a shared, sustainable, and seamless experience. Furthermore, NEOM’s iconic city will showcase the Kingdom’s commitment to transforming transportation and infrastructure to address the needs of the population and the challenges of climate change.
As ever, Saudi Arabia’s sectors are working together and building upon their successes on a trajectory toward achieving and, in some cases, surpassing the country’s ambitious goals for Vision 2030. Next week, our round-up will take us into February and the next step of Saudi’s ambitious journey toward further economic diversification and development.
More from Weekly Roundups
Saudi Round-Up: Financial Innovation and Regulation Driving the Diverse Economic Ecosystem
Saudi Round-Up: Attracting Foreign Investment and Inspiring Global Trade
Saudi Round-Up: Tourism and E-Commerce at the Vanguard of Economic Excellence
Saudi Round-Up: Increased Business Activity in Saudi Drives Economic Growth