ATM 2021: Saudi Arabia's Red Sea project to award contracts worth 20bn riyals over 2 years, CEO says

The company is banking on a 'strong comeback' in leisure travel due to pent-up demand

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The Red Sea Development Company, developer of the mega-tourism project on Saudi Arabia’s west coast, plans to award "hundreds" of contracts worth a total of 20 billion Saudi riyals ($5.3bn) over the next two years, its chief executive said.

The company is pushing ahead with the luxury project, banking on a "strong comeback" in leisure travel due to pent-up demand and a rebound in consumer spending once the pandemic is under control, chief executive John Pagano told The National on the sidelines of the Arabian Travel Market on Monday.

"It's going to be hundreds and hundreds [of contracts], we've already awarded over 500 contracts to date and that number will increase dramatically both this year and to an extent next year as well," he said.

The company has awarded 15bn riyals of contracts to date and has about another 10bn riyals to award this year and 10bn riyals next year.

TRSDC, 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.

"Phase one is well underway, we’re making steady progress and we’re hoping to welcome our first guests by the end of next year," Mr Pagano said.

Three of the planned 16 hotels and the international airport will open at the end of 2022, he said. The full completion and opening of phase one, including the remaining 13 hotels and the coastal village accommodating the 14,000 people working at the destination, will take place by the end of 2023.

The next phase of the project may feature residential homes in response to demand, he said.

"We may well look at residential offerings just to complement phase one. I sense a huge amount of demand for being able to own a residence on an island, which you can't do right now," Mr Pagano said.

Red Sea Development Company’s masterplan covers a 28,000 square kilometre site – an area slightly smaller than Belgium – containing an archipelago of 90 offshore islands and 200 kilometres of coastline, with inland sites featuring mountains, canyons, wadis and an extinct volcano.

Once complete by 2030, it will house 50 hotels containing 8,000 rooms.