RIYADH: As many as 50 hotels will be part of Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea Project, for which investment partners are due to be courted over the next few months, its CEO said on Thursday.
Plans for the ambitious tourism development, which will span 50 islands off the Red Sea coast, include a nature reserve and heritage sites.
John Pagano, CEO of the Red Sea Development Company, said work would begin on the project next year, with the first phase set to open in 2022.
“The project is going to have many hotels — probably 40 or 50,” he told Arab News on the sidelines of the Future Investment Initiative (FII) forum in Riyadh.
“We will be represented by all the major luxury brands that are in the marketplace and some new brands that don’t exist today.”
The project’s masterplan is set to be completed soon, with construction due to start in 2019, he added.
“We’ll open in 2022. We haven’t finalized exactly how big the first phase is, but it will be significant, maybe 10 or more hotels, but … we want to finalize the masterplan before we go to market,” Pagano said.
John Pagano, Head of Saudi Red Sea project tells #FII2018 it is “one of the most ambitious tourism projects the world has ever known.” Follow our coverage of the @FIIKSA: https://t.co/NiHQAdPDbg pic.twitter.com/foYLvsCxP1
— Arab News (@arabnews) October 25, 2018
The project is backed by the Public Investment Fund, Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund. Pagano said that “numerous people (are) already approaching us to co-invest alongside us.”
He said the company would start to “actively look” for such investors toward the end of this year and in early 2019.
Addressing the FII event, Pagano said the Red Sea Project is expected to create 35,000 jobs.
It is billed as sustainable and eco-friendly, with Pagano saying it is intended to be “a force for good.”
He spoke during a session on so-called “gigaprojects” at the FII event, which concluded on Thursday.
Other such projects include the $500 billion NEOM development, and Qiddiya just outside Riyadh.
Nadhmi Al-Nasr, chief executive of NEOM, said talks with prospective partners are continuing, despite the fallout from the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.
“I’ve had tens of meetings (in the) last couple of days with all the partners we’ve been talking to for last few years. The feeling is ‘let’s go’,” Al-Nasr told the FII audience.
Michael Reininger, the chief executive of Qiddiya, confirmed that leisure brand Six Flags is going ahead with plans to open a theme park in the development. Qiddiya is set to span some 334 square kilometers.