Saudi Arabia’s ambitious Red Sea project has received the approval from its board of directors for the masterplan, with the development now aiming for completion in 2030.
The Red Sea Development Company (TRSDC) confirmed that the approved masterplan will see 22 islands developed between the cities of Umluj and Al-Wajh, offering 10,000 hotel rooms across island resorts, mountain retreats and desert hideaways.
It will also offer luxury residential properties and commercial, retail and recreational facilities.
The tourism project, which is estimated to grow the kingdom’s GDP by SAR22bn ($5.86bn) when ready, is a key component of Saudi’s Vision 2030 strategy. Comprising a 28,000sqkm stretch of islands, beaches and other attractions on the Red Sea, the project, launched in the summer of 2017, is expected to create up to 70,000 new jobs and attract one million tourists per year.
The masterplan was developed in partnership with WATG and Buro Hapold and included design concepts from prominent global architecture firms, a statement said.
It preserves some 75 per cent of the destination’s islands for conservation and designates nine islands as sites of significant ecological value.
The masterplan required “several redesigns throughout the process to avoid potentially disrupting endangered species native to the area”, the statement said.
A series of environmental studies were conducted to ensure that the ecologically sensitive area is fully protected during and after development, it added.
The masterplan also features a smart destination management system that will support personalised products and services and help manage visitor flows to avoid over-crowding and delays.
The first phase of the project, scheduled for completion in 2022, includes 14 luxury and “hyper-luxury” hotels providing 3,000 rooms across five islands and two inland resorts.
Phase one will also include yacht marinas, leisure and lifestyle amenities, an airport and the necessary supporting logistics and utilities infrastructure.
“The design concepts that we have presented to the board will provide visitors with a uniquely diverse, immersive experience while setting new standards in sustainable development, and positioning Saudi Arabia on the global tourism map,” said John Pagano, CEO of TRSDC – a wholly subsidiary of the Public Investment Fund (PIF).
“With the masterplan approved, we are now identifying investors and partners who are interested in working with us on realising the objectives of the project.”
TRSDC is also deploying several sustainable initiatives including the use of “the world’s first destination-scale computer simulation techniques”, to assess the impact of development and future tourism on the environment.
“The resulting plan now targets up to 30 per cent net increase in biodiversity over the next two decades”, the statement said.
Sensors and monitoring devices will also track and measure variations in environmental factors such as water salinity, temperature, visibility and tidal flows.
Other policies include zero waste-to-landfill, zero discharge to the sea, and zero single-use plastics, and TRSDC has made a commitment to achieve 100 per cent carbon neutrality.
The destination will rely solely on renewable energy and have no connection to the national grid.