What are the main challenges faced by Jabal Omar in adapting to the Makkah region?
Makkah's historical status presents several logistic and legal challenges that have historically prevented attempts to set up a development project of the scale of Jabal Omar. Meanwhile, the mountainous terrain of Makkah itself makes construction projects challenging. In some cases, a small tract of land might be owned by 200 different individuals, which means getting a unanimous decision to sell the land is difficult. Naturally, accommodating thousands of people throughout the year is a great logistical challenge, one that we have dealt with through the help of our subsidiaries. We have a safe track record with our development.
Can you walk us through the major highlights of the new strategy for Jabal Omar Development Company?
Within this context, the next step of our strategy is to transform the company into Saudi Arabia's top-tier real estate developer by adhering to global standards while remaining mindful of local tastes. Instead of following the old wholesale approach, we should respond to individual client demands, focusing on quality of service. We also need to deliver high-quality real estate developments and investments. In this sense, adopting the right approach in every aspect of the development project is crucial. From the planning stage, you need to gather all the required data and involve the right people on the team, while giving them appropriate incentives. We are keen to bring many components from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Makkah's heritage to the forefront, including culture, architecture, and the arts. While maintaining a focus on residential, hospitality, and retail developments, we will also be adding historical museums, culture, wellness, and entertainment-related areas so our customers spend more time in the region.
What is your assessment of recent regulatory changes, including aspects concerning partnerships and private sector participation?
For many years, the real estate sector in Saudi Arabia has been weighed down by a lack of regulation in development and construction; however, we are now seeing a slate of appropriate regulations falling into place. These updates are contributing to the creation of a network that incentivizes professional global and national industry players. For example, at the heart of the Saudi Vision 2030, there is an emphasis on international partnerships. There are two reasons for this. First, the power of cultural integration is important. We can benefit from best international practices while maintaining our Saudi culture. The presence of international players will lead to innovation. This is of great importance, as we lag behind in this area. Second, international cooperation is important in terms of capacity. Our vision is ambitious. It calls for a great deal of construction and renovation. To achieve that, we definitely need the help of international players. In light of these developments, the opportunities for private-sector participation are enormous. However, regulations have changed, and businesses need to adjust themselves to this new reality. This is the first time I have seen ministers and deputy ministers coming to private companies and pitching to them. The fact that these new channels of communication between the government and the private sector have opened up is an amazing development in itself.