The city of Medina plays an important role in the cultural and historical make-up of Saudi Arabia. It is the final resting place of the Prophet Muhammad and is home to the Prophet’s Mosque, which the Prophet helped build after his flight from Makkah in 622 AD. Today, the Prophet’s Mosque is one of the largest mosque in the world and is the second-holiest site in Islam after the Great Mosque in Makkah. As such, Medina is an important religious centre for the world’s 1.9bn Muslims, with millions of pilgrims visiting the city and its holy sites annually. Saudi Arabia’s far-reaching development strategy, Vision 2030, has earmarked tourism – specifically Islamic heritage tourism – as an engine for growth in the Kingdom’s non-oil economy, with Medina set to play a central role in these efforts. One of the main goals in the Medina region is to increase the number of visitors and the quality of services, activities and offerings available. The country is set to see a gradual increase in the number of Umrah visitors over the next decade, with the goal of reaching 30m by 2030, up from around 19m in 2019. The authorities believe that this ambitious target is achievable, and plan to galvanise private sector participation in the region to boost jobs in the tourism industry. Many of the developments that are carried out in the Kingdom’s fourth-largest city – and across the region as a whole – are supervised by the Almadinah Region Development Authority (MDA), the body responsible for spearheading development and generating private sector growth.
“The MDA plays a significant role as a vehicle for investment in the Medina region,” Hatem Merdad, director of economic development at the MDA, told OBG. “We cooperate closely with many stakeholders across the economy and work to ensure that diversified and sustainable economic development is achieved, while also safeguarding social investment in line with our development targets. It is very important that this balance is maintained through the region, i.e., between rural and urban areas. Our aim is to create a dynamic, healthy and cultural living environment that helps enhance our ability to attract top international and local talent and expertise, as well as profitable businesses.”