The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is currently developing a regenerative tourism destination known as The Red Sea Project. Tracy Lanza, Group Head, Global Brand Development, The Red Sea Development Company (TRSDC), enlightens us with their plans for the smart and sustainable future.
Could you tell us about The Red Sea Project in Saudi Arabia?
It is a luxury regenerative tourism destination situated on Saudi Arabia’s west coast. It spans over 28,000 sq. km., of pristine land and waters and includes a vast archipelago of more than 90 pristine islands. The project is being developed by The Red Sea Development Company.
What is the location and outlook of the project?
It is located 500 km north of Jeddah, between the Saudi towns of Al Wajh and Umluj. At the crossroads of Europe, Asia, and Africa, 250 million people will be within three hours of flying time, and an estimated eight hours of flying time for 80 per cent of the world’s population. The project is one of the world’s most ambitious regenerative tourism destinations. We are going beyond sustainability, aiming to actively improve the environment rather than simply doing no harm. Less than 1 per cent of the entire destination area will be developed, 75 per cent of the islands will remain untouched and nine have been designated as special conservation zones. Guests can expect an exquisite, luxury destination offering indulgent experiences, customised to the unique needs of each visitor.
Is the project part of NEOM?
The Red Sea Project is an entirely different destination than NEOM. It is a pioneering luxury regenerative tourism destination that will set new standards in sustainable development and position Saudi Arabia on the global tourism map.
What are the timelines for the project?
Development has been split into two phases. We are looking forward to welcoming our first guests early next year. The first phase will be fully completed and operational by the end of 2023. It will include 16 resorts for a total of 3,000 keys, an 18-hole championship golf course, a luxury marina, and retail and entertainment facilities. Phase two is scheduled for completion in 2030 and will include 50 resorts with 8,000 keys and 1,000 residential properties across 22 islands and six inland sites.
How does it support the Vision 2030?
Regenerative tourism is at the heart of this destination. We have an unprecedented goal of achieving a 30 per cent net conservation benefit by 2040 by enhancing biologically diverse habitats, including mangroves, seagrass, corals, and land vegetation. Our ambitions go beyond environmental sustainability and include having a regenerative impact on society and the economy. The project supports the Saudi vision through the development of a brand-new tourism industry that has never existed in the Kingdom before. It will allow thousands of young Saudis to pursue new careers and opportunities. We expect to create up to 70,000 new jobs and contribute as much as SAR 22 billion (US$ 5.3 billion) to the nation’s GDP.
Is The Red Sea Project opening by 2023?
Work is on track to welcome guests in 2023, when our first hotels will open. We are fortunate to be able to partner with some of the world’s most iconic hotel brands, including EDITION, St. Regis, Fairmont, Raffles, SLS, Grand Hyatt, Intercontinental, Six Senses, Jumeirah, Miraval, Rosewood, and Ritz-Carlton Reserve. Some of these will be able to host their first guests by early next year.
Will there be hotels and tourist attractions?
The Red Sea Project offers a wide array of experiences, including sandy beaches, canyons, mountains, mangroves, untouched coral reefs, and a significant number of endangered species. Guests will be able to enjoy a full spectrum of leisure activities, from kayaking and diving among our pristine island waters, to wildlife watching, mountain biking, or even paleontology trails snaking deep into the destination’s immaculate inland areas.
Is it more for luxury tourists or for all types of tourists?
The Red Sea Project is a luxury tourist destination, but this is a new breed of luxury tourism – we are setting new global standards in sustainable development. We look forward to welcoming a variety of discerning guests from all across the world.
Please tell us about the connectivity plans.
The Red Sea International Airport (RSI) will be operational in 2023, providing a luxury transportation experience where sustainability is considered in every detail. The eco-friendly airport design focuses on using shaded areas and natural ventilation to minimise the reliance on air conditioning. The entire destination’s infrastructure, including the airport and wider transportation network, will be powered entirely by renewable energy. This includes our boats and seaplanes.
About the project
The Red Sea Project is grounded in sustainability and sustainable tourism in its fullest sense. The site encompasses an archipelago of more than 90 pristine islands, miles of sweeping desert, and mountain landscapes.
There are now 80 km of new roads completed, including the new airport road, to better connect the destination.
A regulatory framework is in development that comprises innovative policies and strategies to facilitate the sustainability and regeneration commitments.