Diriyah: From national icon to global must-visit destination

Global Insights
28 September 2023 Riyadh, KSA
  • Diriyah is the ancestral home of the Al Saud royal family and includes a UNESCO World Heritage Site
  • PIF giga-project company embraces innovation as it targets 50 million visits per year by 2030
  • “When you celebrate your past, it allows you to be optimistic about the future,” says Group CEO of Diriyah Company

It’s an exciting time for Saudi Arabia – and the world – as the country’s historic wonders are being opened up to everyone, guided by the Vision 2030 strategy, which is transforming the nation’s economy through the development of future-forward sectors.

PIF’s giga-projects form a key part of Saudi Arabia’s plan to create new economic ecosystems and drive diversification. These new destinations are not only embracing the latest technologies to meet the needs of current and future generations but also celebrate the nation’s rich culture and history.

Take Diriyah, which is home to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of At-Turaif. The area is the birthplace of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the ancestral home of the Al Saud royal family, and the site upon which the First Saudi State was established in 1727. The settlement of Diriyah, which dates back to 1446, has been home to generations of leaders and is a source of inspiration for millions of Saudis.

Jerry Inzerillo, Group CEO of Diriyah Company, is tasked with making Diriyah a global bucket-list destination. With five decades of experience in hospitality, the veteran knows a thing or two about welcoming visitors.

“There’s great joy in serving, especially during this historic time for Saudi Arabia. This is my life’s mission,” Inzerillo told PIF Global Insights. “What’s the universal answer when someone says thank you? You say: You’re welcome. That’s a hospitality term.”

Inzerillo firmly believes Saudi Arabia is ready to receive tourists from around the world, including millions to historic Diriyah. “When you celebrate your past, it allows you to be optimistic about the future,” he says. 

Inzerillo’s enthusiasm is also in part due to Diriyah Company being a member of the PIF family. “When you look at the leadership of HRH The Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and of H.E. Yasir Al-Rumayyan, Governor of PIF, you see that the Fund is packed with talent, leadership, and with a global authority. It’s one of the most powerful funds in the world in terms of influence now.

“With HRH The Crown Prince and the power of PIF, Vision 2030 is going to be realized and very positive. It’s going to have a major impact on the world.”

The first assets of the Diriyah masterplan opened at the end of 2022, including At-Turaif’s galleries, and Bujairi Terrace, with its multitude of restaurants housed in traditional Najdi architecture style buildings. The destination offers a calendar of events, from high-octane sports to diverse music and cultural performances, and has already welcomed more than 1 million visitors. Meanwhile, 6 million trees, shrubs, and bushes have been planted in Wadi Hanifah (Diriyah sits along this valley), contributing to Vision 2030’s sustainability targets.

By 2030, the mixed-use destination will span 14 square kilometers and is set to be home to 38 hotels across all of its masterplan areas, 100-plus restaurants, multiple educational institutions, and a population of 100,000. It is also expected to create 178,000 direct jobs, contribute SAR 70 billion directly to the national GDP, and welcome 50 million visits per year by the end of the decade.

In conclusion, Inzerillo says that Diriyah, which sits in the heart of Riyadh, is a vibrant hub operating round the clock, offering endless opportunities.