Jerry Inzerillo flies to Saudi Arabia on Sept. 5 with a big job to do — create an international tourist destination in the 15th-century ruins where the state was founded.
Inzerillo, 64 — who developed hotels with Ian Schrager and casino resorts with Sol Kerzner — is working now for a man half his age, Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman.
“He’s an extraordinary guy, wickedly intelligent,” Inzerillo told me. “I’m excited to spend the next few years fulfilling His Royal Highness’ vision.”
The plan is to rebuild the mud-brick ruins of Diriyah, a UNESCO site, with hotels, restaurants, theaters, museums and retail. “It’s a heritage site, not a theme park,” Inzerillo said.
The Saudi ruler is committed to diversifying Saudi Arabia’s oil-dependent economy, and modernizing its strict Islamic society. He recently granted women the right to drive.
But Saudi Arabia is now embroiled in a diplomatic spat with Canada over human rights.
“I’m a tourism guy. I’m not involved in politics,” Inzerillo said. “He [bin Salman] is working very hard to change things, to create a tourism environment where people want to come.”
Inzerillo, CEO of the Diriyah Gate Development Authority, said, “Pretty good for a boy from Brooklyn.”
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