(By Kate Carlisle) Rome, June 13 - Jordan's Red Sea development Aqaba - a liberalized, low-tax, duty-free area that is scaling up the ladder of business and leisure hubs - is ready to get started expanding its hospitality features, said developers Saraya Aqaba on Thursday. A $629-million contract for an international joint venture led by Arabtec Holding PJSC (Arabtec) was signed by Saraya Aqaba Real Estate Development Company, the Consolidated Contractors Company (CCC) and Drake and Scull Construction LLC (DSC), three key players in the local, regional, and international construction industry. Saraya Chairman Ali Hassan Kolaghassi and members of the Board of Saraya Aqaba attended the signing ceremony when the contract was signed by General Manager of Saraya Aqaba Soud Soror, Regional Managing Director of Arabtec in Jordan Samer Abu-Hijleh, Regional Managing Director of CCC in the UAE Walid Salman and Managing Director of Drake and Scull Construction Saleh Muradweij. The strategic alliance among the three companies is based on Equal Joint Venture (EJV) terms, Saraya said. "The signing of this contract coincides with the anniversary of the royal accession to the throne. In this occasion, we dedicate this achievement to His Majesty King Abdullah II as a realization of his greater vision for the Aqaba Special Economic Zone," Saraya's Kolaghassi told ANSA. The burgeoning autonomous area in Aqaba is poised to bloom much as the super-chic northeastern Sardinian resort of Porto Cervo has over the last three decades. Just a stone's throw away from the Petra archeological site and Wadi Rum, also known as The Valley of the Moon, the development for business travellers and tourists alike gracefully combines Mediterranean charm and Middle Eastern elegance. "This contract is indeed a major milestone towards achieving Saraya Aqaba's vision and aspirations. It also reflects our unequivocal commitment to making a genuine contribution to the development of Aqaba and the Kingdom at large, through boosting economic activity and tourism," Kolaghassi said. Arabtec Managing Director and CEO Hasan Abdullah Ismaik emphasised that the "vital project is one of Jordan's largest in the tourism sector". "The three companies, who are part of the joint venture, are experts in their respective fields, with a strong track record of high-quality and timely delivery to global standards. We are fully committed to making this project a success for Aqaba and for Jordan," Ismaik said. "The project will also provide significant opportunities to engage with local suppliers and contractors to further support the growth of Jordan's construction and economic sectors overall," Ismaik added. The process to select the contractors has "been long," Soud Soror, general manager of Saraya Aqaba said. "We invited a number of internationally accredited contractors to tender for the project. In addition, we managed to raise the company's capital, propelling Saraya Aqaba to the ranks of the largest corporations in Jordan by market capitalization," Soror said. He added that Saraya had promised to make a "substantial capital increase, and to select a highly qualified contractor who can deliver the work to the specified terms of quality and time line and we have delivered that promise". "Now it's time for hard work on the ground in order to translate our vision to a living reality knowing that this project will provide more than 3,000 jobs during the construction phase in addition to more than 1,500 jobs once it is operational, hopefully in early 2016," Soror emphasized. Phase one of the project will be delivered within 28 months from the date of signing the contract. It will include four international hotels managed by Jumeirah International, Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide, as well as beach club Souk Saraya, offices, a convention center and Wild Wadi water park managed by Jumeirah International. The plans also include residential units, further infrastructure, utility buildings and staff accommodation.