• ‘Choosing Saudi, choosing Riyadh, is choosing the world,’ says Princess Haifa Al-Saud, deputy minister of tourism
  • New infrastructure in capital city includes metro, airport and 70,000 additional hotel rooms

PARIS: Saudi Arabia’s capital city is the ideal location for World Expo 2030 because of its growing international stature, strong economy and new infrastructure, according to several government and private sector officials who spoke at a seminar in Paris on Monday night.

The Royal Commission for Riyadh City hosted delegates from the Bureau International des Expositions, or BIE, at the event that was live-streamed to an international audience.

The BIE will decide on Nov. 28, at its 173rd General Assembly, which city will host World Expo 2030. Saudi Arabia is competing against Italy and South Korea to host the global gathering.

The participants included the BIE’s Secretary-General Dimitri Kerkentzes, who opened the seminar.

Keynote speaker Adel Al-Jubeir, Saudi Arabia’s minister of state for foreign affairs and climate envoy, said the Kingdom has the people to host the event.

“Seventy percent of our population is under the age of 30,” he said. “You feel the excitement, you feel the energy, you feel the enthusiasm that is going to be driving the country to greater and greater heights.”

“We have sent hundreds of thousands of men and women to study (at) universities across the world … so that they can come back with the knowledge and experience and integrate the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia into the global community,” said Al-Jubeir.

Jerry Inzerillo, Group CEO of the Diriyah Development Co., in his speech, said Riyadh has the infrastructure in place for the event, including 70,000 new hotel rooms.

All the hotels will be accessible, via the newly developed metro, to King Salman Airport that is currently under construction. At 57 million square meters it is going to be one of the biggest airports in the world. The country’s new airline, Riyadh Air, will have flights to 100 countries by 2025, said Inzerillo.

The royal commission’s directors of landscape architecture — Lamia Al-Muhanna and Nouf Al-Moneef — unveiled a color-coded map with planned pavilions, performance venues, support facilities, and an exhibition village.

A total of $343 million has been allocated to assist those countries that will participate in the exhibition.

Princess Haifa Al-Saud, Saudi Arabia’s deputy minister of tourism, said the Kingdom was finalizing its Riyadh Academy for Tourism project, which would have a capacity for over 28,000 students. Over 60 percent of the seats will be allocated for international students.

“Choosing Saudi, choosing Riyadh, is choosing the world,” she said.

The seminar was held at Hangar Y, the location of Paris’ World Expo 1878.

Guests at the event later enjoyed an evening of folk dances, and a performance by Loulwa Al-Sharif, a jazz singer from Saudi Arabia.

— Reprinted with permission of Arab News.