Red Sea tourism project picks DAA International to operate its airport

The airport will serve 1 million passengers annually by the project’s completion in 2030

The Red Sea Development Company, the developer of the mammoth tourism project on Saudi Arabia’s west coast, has picked Dublin-based DAA International to operate the project's international airport.

The group’s international airport management business will provide airfield and terminal operations, aviation services, facilities management and commercial activities, as well as corporate and financial services. DAA International already operates Terminal 5 at King Khalid International Airport in the kingdom’s capital, Riyadh.

"This announcement is an important step in bringing the experience to life ahead of welcoming visitors by the end of 2022,” said John Pagano, chief executive of TRSDC.

The airport is set to serve one million passengers annually by the project’s completion in 2030, with a peak capacity of 900 passengers per hour, according to a statement on Tuesday.

Saudi Arabia is developing several mega-projects to build its nascent tourism industry as part of efforts to reduce its reliance on oil and diversify the economy.

The Red Sea Development Company’s masterplan covers a 28,000 square kilometre site containing 90 islands. Set to welcome its first visitors in 2022, the project is expected to be completed by 2030. It will house 50 hotels containing 8,000 rooms, a luxury marina, entertainment and leisure facilities.

The company, which is owned by the kingdom’s Public Investment Fund, is developing 16 hotels with 3,000 rooms across five islands and two inland sites as part of the first phase that will be delivered by 2023. This phase will cost an estimated 28 billion Saudi riyals to 29bn riyals ($7.46bn-$7.73bn) to develop.

“The Red Sea International Airport will become a fundamental part of each visitor’s journey to this unique destination, and we believe their holiday experience should start from the moment they land,” said Nick Cole, chief executive of DAA International.

The entire transport network at the site, including the airport, will be powered by renewable energy. Acwa Power will provide 100 per cent renewable energy for phase one under a public private partnership agreement

The project is being built under a “regenerative tourism” model, which aims not only to protect local habitats, but also create conditions for local environments to thrive. Only 22 of the 90 islands will be built and visitor numbers to the area will be capped at one million a year.

TRSDC awarded the airport design contract to UK-based architecture firm Foster + Partners in October 2019.