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$1 Billion resort deals drive Aqaba tourism developments

Posted: 4 May 2003

Dubai, UAE — Jordan’s Aqaba Special Economic Zone Authority (ASEZA) has finalised the Aqaba Lagoon Tourism Site project which will result in a further $500-700 million investment in the development of tourism and leisure facilities in the zone.

The deal, signed with preferred developer ASTRA (The Saudi Arab Supply and Trading Corporation), is to see the development of an integrated, multi-use leisure community with over 1500 four and five star hotel rooms, 20,000 m2 of commercial space and over 800 residential units.

The move comes as investors are focusing on Middle East opportunities following the Iraq conflict.

“The return of confidence to the market has been swift, in part fuelled by the remaining high regional liquidity, and in part by the emphasis that this conflict has brought to the region. We are seeing more interest from foreign investors than ever before, and we intend to capitalise on that interest as much as possible,” said ASEZA chief commissioner HE Akil Biltaji. “At the same time ASEZA has maintained aggressive growth through this year”.

The Lagoon project will see a 250 metre-long stretch of sea front extended to 3,000 metres with the development of a man-made lagoon and marinas. Other components of the proposed development are to include golf courses, retail and commercial complexes as well as entertainment facilities.

The new project has been finalised as ASEZA participates in Dubai’s ‘First International Investment Summit’, held at the Grand Hyatt Hotel, Dubai from the 3-5th May 2003.

“We’re aggressively targeting FDI, foreign direct investment, and we have the absolute support and backing from our government that we need to succeed,” said Biltaji. “The Lagoon development will join the existing Tala bay project to create over 10,000 jobs in Aqaba over the coming 12 years.”

Louay Khatib, director of business development and marketing at ASEZA, commented: “We are driving hard to attract investors with incentives and assistance from the authority now complementing the advanced infrastructure and open investment environment that Aqaba offers. We’re flexible, committed and absolutely open for business, and we’re seeing strong demand for the kind of approach to multi-modal trade and investment that ASEZA is building.”

ASEZA is the statutory institution legally responsible for the organisational, administrative, financial and economic development of the Aqaba Special Economic Zone and is committed to maintaining Aqaba at the competitive forefront as an international hub with commercial, leisure and services based investment opportunities.

In addition to the strong moves to develop leisure and tourism facilities, Aqaba offers a unique set of commercial investment opportunities, being strategically located on the Red Sea and acting as a multi-modal freight/logistics hub for the region. Goods originating in Jordan are granted preferential entry into the United States market, duty free, and not subject to the quota system as Aqaba is governed by the Free Trade Agreement and the Qualifying Industrial Zone (QIZ) agreement with the USA.

The Aqaba Special Economic Zone Authority (ASEZA) is the statutory institution that was commissioned by law to be responsible for the organisational, administrative, financial and economic development of the Aqaba Special Economic Zone.

The ASEZA is governed by six ministerial-level commissioners, each responsible for a major area of regulatory or operational activity.

The Aqaba Free Zone law simplifies all procedures, licenses and approvals to enable ASEZA to provide a competitive environment for investment, where a single investment window was setup to interface with investors and enhance the central decision making capability.

The authority aims at turning and establishing Aqaba into a center for competitive international investment, by providing a simplified investment environment and encouraging the participation of the private sector in all development activities in the region. This guarantees the presence of high quality infrastructure and services for investors, visitors and residents.

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Posted by Richard Price, Editor

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