Riyadh’s Bold Leap Captures The Expo Spotlight — A 2030 Blueprint, with 2040 Aspirations
In under thirty days, Saudi Arabia has seized global attention with two groundbreaking announcements. Riyadh has triumphed over Rome and Busan, garnering a decisive 119 out of 165 members of the Paris-based Bureau International des Expositions (BIE), to host the ‘most connected’ Expo in history, a record since its inception in 1851. As 2023 draws to a close, the Kingdom isn’t just making headlines—it’s dominating them.
The Kingdom’s ambitious vision for the 2030s, featuring world-class stadiums for its 2034 World Cup and exhibition halls that host the world, has ignited a wave of excitement across the Middle East, particularly in the Gulf. This move has stirred a palpable sense of determination, propelling the region towards becoming a global leader within a decade. Saudi Arabia has sparked a fire in the hearts of regional leaders, innovators, businesses, talent, and the region’s youth, turning what once seemed like a distant dream into a much closer achievable reality.
Now, the stage is set for rapid building, innovating, and executing at an unprecedented pace—and we are all eagerly watching. The Expo 2030 announcement not only enhances Saudi Arabia’s international standing but also propels Riyadh into becoming one of the world’s top ten largest city economies.
‘Riyadh is Ready’
‘Riyadh is ready,’ revealed a first look at what the visitors of Expo 2030 can expect. In just 39 seconds, a video circulated across social media, sweeps across Riyadh’s 2030 skyline, showcasing the metropolis’s dramatic evolution. It also sheds light on Saudi Arabia’s focus on sustainability, which will be a key theme of Expo 2030.
Saudi Arabia’s location as a “bridge connecting north, south, east and west” means it could host a “truly inclusive” World Expo, Prince Faisal bin Farhan, the Saudi Arabian foreign minister, told the 172nd General Assembly of the Bureau International des Expositions in Paris yesterday.
“It is a strategic priority for the Kingdom to deliver an Expo built by the world, for the world, an Expo which recognizes global diversity, and we seek the opportunity to organize an Expo that continues the legacy of international exhibitions at a time when the international community seeks to prepare for a transition to a sustainable and more equal future”
The news has significantly energized the tourism, entertainment, construction, and logistics sectors – simultaneously instilling an even greater sense of urgency. Ambitious projects, including futuristic cities and infrastructural marvels like the Riyadh Metro, a 6 Million m² area of the Expo site, underscore the nation’s dedication to transformative change. The rapid execution on various fronts has heightened the need for swift innovation, in light of the numerous global events scheduled in the upcoming years. Ibrahim Al-Sultan, acting CEO of the Royal Commission for Riyadh City, told the assembly “The work has already begun”.
The journey towards Vision 2030’s finish line is set to culminate with the grandeur of Expo 2030, opening the doors to a new decade marked by the hosting of the 2034 World Cup – laying the foundation for Vision 2040.
With $7.8 billion worth of investments allocated for the Expo 2030 so far, Riyadh is prepared to build the infrastructure required to host 246 official participants from across the globe. What aims to be the ‘most connected’ Expo, will adopt renewable energy with zero carbon emissions. This paints a sustainable future for the Kingdom as it sets its track to derive 50% of its energy from renewable sources by 2030 and further drive the growth of achieving net-zero emissions by 2060. Given the emerging nature of the sustainability sector in Saudi Arabia, there’s a massive opportunity for international and regional climate tech companies. This scenario calls for these businesses to extend their innovative solutions to the Kingdom, catering to the increasing demand for sustainable products and practices within Saudi. The influx of sustainable and climate-conscious companies into these mega-projects indicates that Saudi Arabia is perceived as a global testbed for innovation in construction, supported by substantial investments and a strong commitment to fostering innovation and creativity.
A Strategic Race Ahead
Expo 2030, expecting at least 40 million visitors, is planned to dramatically boost tourism through its integration with the Riyadh Metro, linked directly to King Salman International Airport. This aligns with Saudi Arabia’s ambitious target of welcoming 150 million tourists by 2030, ensuring seamless travel and enhancing Riyadh’s position as a global destination.
Spanning 6 million square meters, Riyadh Expo 2030 will attract both global and regional construction firms, showcasing Riyadh’s potential for monumental infrastructural growth. This significant event not only drives construction collaborations but also signals massive progress in the Saudi capital, including plans for an extra 70,000 hotel rooms in the city. In line with Saudi Vision 2030, this addition will further contribute to the Kingdom’s goal of lifting the total supply of hotel rooms to 450,000 by 2030. This transformative growth solidifies Riyadh’s status as a hub for innovation and future development. Global and regional construction companies have already been on the move to facilitate the growing infrastructural needs of Saudi – many of them already set up by the AstroLabs expansion engine. A case in point is Grankraft, part of our expansion network, has made a notable impact in The Red Sea Development with their work on the Sheybarah Hotel, utilizing mirror-finished stainless steel.
The race for securing major Expo projects is in full swing, offering a prime window for international firms to win lucrative contracts. With this, we are looking at a sharp uptick in the influx of foreign companies entering Saudi, an expansion trend that has already been on the rise over the past 5 years. Key sectors like tourism, entertainment, construction, and manufacturing stand to gain from this early-mover edge, contributing significantly to the expected monumental success of The Riyadh Expo 2030.
The ripple effect of hosting the Expo will extend far beyond Riyadh, bolstering the progress of pivotal projects across the Kingdom. Recently, the Public Investment Fund’s SEVEN made a significant investment of $347.8 million in the New Asir Tourist Destination. It is expected to inject over $1.07 billion into Saudi Arabia’s GDP and draw in excess of 5 million visitors by 2030, highlighting the far-reaching impact of the Expo on the nation’s economic and tourism landscapes.
A Beacon of Innovation for the Entire Region
With the recently announced unified GCC tourist visa, and now the Expo 2030 in Riyadh, underpinned by Saudi Arabia’s strategic commitment and its role as a global connector, is poised to redefine the landscape of international exhibitions. It’s a celebration of progress, a showcase of sustainable futures, and a collaborative effort that epitomizes the Kingdom’s forward-thinking ethos.
In the meantime – today’s reality doesn’t look any less exciting, as Saudi Arabia becomes a place where the rich Arabian culture meets modern innovation. The Kingdom is rapidly becoming the high-growth destination-of-choice on the world map for many businesses, while leisure travelers looking to experience a mix of age-old traditions and contemporary wonders follow suit.
With the world’s eyes on Riyadh, the city is more than prepared—it’s leading the way into a future where dreams and reality converge, marking a pivotal moment in the Kingdom’s journey beyond 2030.