Sindalah is set to be the first destination open to the public in Neom, the $500 billion megacity project planned by Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, already one of the world's most ambitious sustainable urban developments.
The island resort will be spread over approximately 840,000 square metres, with one of the main aims of the development being to conserve natural beauty — one of Neom's central themes.
"I would call it the jewel of the Red Sea," Peter Fitzhardinge, the director of marketing and sales at Neom Tourism told The National. "It is surrounded by magnificent corals, turquoise waters and magnificent views back over Neom's mainland.
"It is perfectly positioned to draw the world here and we will draw the world here based on our beauty and our development."
Saudi Arabia is trying to boost tourism revenue as part of its Vision 2030, a multi-sector initiative aimed at diversifying the country's economy, from grassroots reform in education to high-profile projects such as Neom.
This month, Prince Mohammed said: “This is another significant moment for Neom and a major step in the kingdom realising its tourism ambitions under Vision 2030.
"Sindalah will be Neom’s first luxury island and yacht club destination in the Red Sea, providing a scenic gateway to the Red Sea that will become the region’s most exciting and attractive tourism location.
"It will be a destination where travellers can experience the true beauty of Neom and Saudi Arabia, above and below the water, making Sindalah the future of luxury travel," he said.
What is Sindalah and when will it be open to public?
The resort will include luxury hotels and a large marina, beach club, yacht club, spa and wellness centre as well as 51 luxury retail outlets.
Sindalah is set to feature 413 premium rooms across three luxury hotels, as well as 88 villas, 333 serviced apartments, nine fine-dining restaurants, nine casual restaurants, some with rooftop lounges.
Sindalah is set to open early in 2024, said Mr Fitzhardinge. The island is expected to receive 2,400 visitors a day by 2028. About 3,500 jobs are expected to be created in the process.
"What I am most excited about is it will be the first tourism asset which will be opened in Neom, in the Neom way of tourism," says Mr Fitzhardinge. He said he was excited by the opportunity to welcome the first visitors.
Sindalah will offer activities including kayaking, kite surfing, water skiing and scuba diving.
What will Sindalah offer and how easy is it to get there?
"When you think of Neom, which will soon open to the world and Saudi Arabia, which is now open to the world, these are new regions the world wants to come to explore. This is very strong for us," Mr Fitzhardinge says.
Equally the coastline, islands and aquatic side to Neom are among its strongest assets. With the country opening up to foreign tourism, Mr Fitzhardinge believes this will be "a very strong lure for the world to come here. Sindalah sits very much in the middle of that."
Chris Newman, hotel development executive director at Sindalah, said the island would be exciting, with a lot happening including food and shopping festivals, sports events, "plus promotional events, the beach club, golf course, yachting events and so on".
He said initially, Sindalah anticipates 70 per cent of visitors will come from within the GCC. As the "destination matures and word spreads, that will change and we can expect people from around the world to make the journey." Forty per cent of the world's population will be able to fly to Neom within six hours by plane.
Antoni Vives, chief urban planning officer of Neom, said: "When we talk about connectivity, we look at the fact that Neom is just three or four hours away on a plane from the big capital cities of Europe. Then 40 per cent of the world is just six hours away. In Neom itself, people will be able to go from Sindalah to The Line easily — with a population of more than one million by 2030."
What were the challenges while building Sindalah?
"I see challenges as opportunities, we are taught that from a young age. For us it was an opportunity start from scratch, a blank canvas. I don't see anything holding us back, perhaps the only challenge is ourselves, limits of vision," says Mr Fitzhardinge.
Italian luxury yacht architect Luca Dini is the mastermind behind the design with over 25 years of experience.
"He is an extraordinary talent almost bigger than life gentleman — almost a coup and a great statement for Sindalah that we have one of the greatest yachting designers in the world designing it," says Mr Fitzhardinge.
How does sustainability play a part?
"Nothing is done in Neom without sustainability and environment at the centre, it just doesn't happen," Mr Fitzhardinge says. "If there is a compromise, it doesn't go through. From how we use energy, since we use renewables, Neom will be home to the largest solar energy, it is very much reliant upon that as well as desalination and green hydrogen, which is the future. The environment is key. The pristine waters, sea and wildlife, every step is taken that the environment is looked after."
Only electric vehicles will be used in Sindalah.
The clean energy strategy is firmly at the core of Neom projects as the city will be run by renewable energy. Neom aims to achieve net-zero emissions by 2060.