Prime Red Sea locations earmarked for hospitality development

by | 26 May 2020 | Projects

The Ummahat Al Shaykh Island as part of the Red Sea project. (Photo: Red Sea Development)

Saudi Arabia’s impressive Red Sea hotel project — with a total capacity of 8,000 rooms — is slated to welcome guests in its first property at the end of 2022.

Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea Development Company has identified suitable locations on several key islands as part of its plan to develop a series of hotels in the Red Sea. The Red Sea Project is one of the Kingdom’s most ambitious development projects and aims to transform tourism in the region. We find out more.

Island life in the Middle East

Saudi Arabia’s reputation among tourists is growing all the time as the country becomes more liberal and opens itself up to outside visitors. A key part of the Kingdom’s push to encourage tourism is the Red Sea Project, an initiative to identify potential areas for development in the Red Sea. The project recently announced that it had hit a significant milestone with the marking of a number of locations on several key islands that are appropriate for hotel development. Three hotels are set to be developed on the Sheybarah South and Ummahat Al Shaykh islands off the Kingdom’s west coast.

“The marking of locations for our overwater assets is another milestone reached for the project, and is indicative of the progress being made at the site,” said John Pagano, chief executive of the Red Sea Development Company. “This activity was an essential step in the identification of suitable locations which will allow our hotels and other assets to coexist in harmony with their surroundings while providing our visitors with an immersive experience and stunning views.”

Red Sea investment

The Red Sea Project is the brainchild of Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, who has forged ahead with his plan to entice tourists to Saudi Arabia by organising a number of giga-projects, of which this is one. Saudi Arabia’s tourism board says 66 islands in the Red Sea are “ready for investment”, with three main islands having been identified that could accommodate luxury resorts.

The latest announcement follows a survey to see which islands had the best overwater assets, making them ideally suited for the development of new villas, restaurants and other amenities. Additionally, these types of resorts would also be able to offer guests scuba diving, wellness retreats and spa packages if the right infrastructure was present.

Environmental impact

The islands have remained untouched for a long time, and the tourism board is sensitive to the importance of minimising any impact that development may have on the environment. Many of the islands off the coast of Saudi Arabia are awash with coral reefs, pristine beaches and mangroves, for example. The overwater hospitality model allows visitors to experience the raw beauty of these places without the massive impact that new constructions on land can have on the environment, and sustainability is at the heart of the Red Sea Project.

The project’s first property is slated to welcome guests at the end of 2022, with the entire scheme due for completion by 2030, when 22 islands and six inland sites will have been developed with a total capacity of 8,000 hotel rooms. “For the time being it is aimed at Saudis and expats,” said Rustom Al-Kubaisi from the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage, although western tourists might become a target “in the future”.

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