The board of directors of Saudi Arabia's state-owned Red Sea
Development Co. has approved the group's ambitious plan for making the kingdom
a luxury, eco-tourism destination.
The master plan calls for development of more than 10,000
hotel rooms and luxury residences across 22 of the more than 90 islands in an
area of the Red Sea that is one of the world's last untouched marine
The first phase of the project, scheduled for completion in
2022, includes an airport, 14 luxury hotels with 3,000 rooms across five
islands as well as two inland resorts, yacht marinas and other leisure
amenities and infrastructure.
The company said the plan, developed by architects at WATG
and engineers with Buro Happold, was carefully drafted and redrafted with
information from a series of wide-ranging environmental studies to ensure that
the ecologically sensitive area is protected during and after development.
It also preserves some 75% of the destination's islands for
conservation and designates nine islands as sites of significant ecological
value to avoid disrupting endangered species native to the area.
"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 Red Sea Development Co. CEO John Pagano.
"With the master plan approved, we are now identifying
investors and partners who are interested in working with us on realizing the
objectives of the project and who share our commitment to enhance, not exploit,
the natural ecosystems that make the destination so unique."
The Red Sea Project is Saudi Arabia's first big play to for
generating luxury tourism beyond business and religious visitors and is a key
component of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's "Vision 2030 strategy"
for diversifying the kingdom's economy.
The project is expected to create up to 70,000 jobs and to
contribute $5.3 billion to the nation's GDP, the company said.