Riding the current of Saudi Arabia’s transformation
Lawrence Chia
Chairman, Pico Group

Of all the developments in the global economy in recent years, one of the most striking has been in the Middle East’s largest economy, Saudi Arabia. Led by its ‘Vision 2030’ initiative, the country is transitioning fast from an oil-dependent to a diversified, innovation-driven and sustainable model, and is striving for progress in education, infrastructure, tourism and other areas. Along the way, it is creating unprecedented opportunities for growth.

According to statistics from the Saudi Central Bank and Ministry of Tourism, the country welcomed over 100 million visitors in 2023, with tourist spending in the first three quarters reaching US$27.36 billion, a 53% increase year-over-year, making it one of the G20 countries with the highest growth rate in inbound tourism. Brands that can discern and seize these opportunities may secure a leading position in the competitive landscape.

As an example, Pico entered the UAE three decades ago and has since cultivated an in-country team well-versed in regional culture, particularly within the Saudi market. This has enabled Pico to complete a succession of major events in the region. The company provided design, building and operational services for 20 national, corporate and thematic pavilions and managed over 500 events at the Dubai Expo, as well as activating the Arabian Gulf Cup closing ceremonies in Iraq, the world’s largest light art festival Noor Riyadh, and the Hyundai FIFA Museum exhibition for FIFA World Cup Qatar.

Since the announcement of ‘Vision 2030’, governments have been eager to establish cooperative relationships with Saudi Arabia. Hong Kong’s government recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Ministry of Investment of Saudi Arabia to foster cooperation on investment promotion exchange and support. Both parties have also launched formal negotiations aimed at creating a more transparent and stable investment environment to enhance investor confidence and increase bilateral investment flows to boost closer economic relations.

Faced with Saudi Arabia’s potential, businesses should quickly grasp the opportunities and explore new areas of growth across sectors. The US$500 billion investment in the NEOM smart city project represents a rare opportunity. Pico has already leveraged its decades of experience to activate promotional booths at multiple NEOM exhibitions. Other enterprises should also take this chance to tap into Saudi Arabia’s blossoming commercial potential.


The full article was originally published in Headline Finance on 6 May 2024 (in Chinese only)