This exclusive destination has a yearly visitor cap of 1 million - a fraction of the 93.5m Saudi welcomed in 2022.
Adventure seekers scouting out new destinations should look to Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea coast. Here, you can tick off a bucket-list of high-adrenaline experiences from skydiving to mountain biking.
The region’s renewed high-octane focus is thanks to a mega-project by developer Red Sea Global. It is gearing up to launch two new destinations: The Red Sea and Amaala.
As they prepare to welcome their first guests later this year, they’re perfecting a careful balance of outdoor adventure, ecotourism and luxury.
What outdoor sports can you do in The Red Sea?
Under its new adventure sports brand ‘Akun’ (meaning ‘to be’ in Arabic), Red Sea Global will provide adventure travellers with unique opportunities.
“Each builds on the exciting sense of exploration we nurture at our destinations,” says John Pagano, Group CEO of Red Sea Global.
From gravel, mountain, fat tire and electric biking to trail running, climbing, scrambling and hiking through the region’s diverse nature trails, there are plenty of options for beginners to athletes.
Water sports, diving experiences, and stand-up paddle-boarding through the local mangroves cater to ocean lovers. And for those who enjoy dizzying heights, there’s skydiving, paragliding, paramotoring and hot air ballooning.
“We can now offer a full trio package of sporting experiences ahead of our first guests arriving at The Red Sea this year,” says John.
Where to stay when you visit The Red Sea
Three luxury resorts at The Red Sea will open this year including Six Senses, St Regis The Red Sea and Ritz-Carlton Reserve. A further 16 hotels will open with 3,000 rooms between 2023 and 2024.
“Six Senses focuses on wellness. But they are very much about the culture and the land that they are part of,” says Tracy Lanza, Group Head of Global Branding and Marketing, Red Sea Global. “So it will be very endemic to the dunescape along the Red Sea coast."
“Then we've got the St Regis and Ritz-Carlton, which are on our Unmahat Islands, so they're island based adventures, so very much involved with the water sports, with diving, with snorkelling, with corals,” she continues. “It will be truly, truly an immersive experience in the land and the sea.”
An exclusive ecotourism destination
The Red Sea project is ambitious in its regenerative tourism approach. Bringing together luxury, nature and sustainability, it forges a new kind of ecotourism.
“The future of tourism is really making [it] more responsible to the land that we've been entrusted with,” says Tracy.
Pushing the boundaries of sustainable travel, The Red Sea project aims to be powered completely by renewables.
“We will be off the grid… There is zero waste to landfill. No single-use plastics,” Tracy continues. “And the thing that I think is really interesting and really makes people stand up and listen is that when we're fully operational, we will cap visitation at a million people a year.”
This is just a fraction of the more than 90 million visitors Saudi Arabia welcomed in 2022. With overtourism a key driver of degradation in destinations across the world, visitor caps and tourist taxes are an essential tool for protecting nature and biodiversity.
The Red Sea will have its own airport
A new regional airport is planned that will allow international travellers to catch connecting flights from either of Saudi Arabia’s two biggest cities, Jeddah and Riyadh.
Conceived by British architect Foster + Partners, the new airport will be powered by renewable energy and looks set to be something special for discerning travellers.
Designed to imitate the experience of a private aircraft terminal, it will feature smaller spaces and is inspired by the colours and textures of the surrounding desert landscape.
“It'll be a very exclusive experience. It'll be seamless. Your luggage will show up at your hotel so you don't have to stand around at the carousel and wait,” says Tracy.
Saudi’s tourism industry is on the rise
Through projects like The Red Sea, Saudi Arabia is cementing itself as a tourism powerhouse in the Middle East. The country has already seen a 121 per cent increase in international visitors from pre-pandemic levels, welcoming 93.5 million people in 2022. This far outpaces global tourism sector recovery as recognised by the UNWTO.
Not only will The Red Sea project be an exciting new destination for visitors, it will also give the country a boost. It aims to create 70,000 jobs, foster opportunities for local businesses and entrepreneurs, and contribute an estimated €5.3 billion to Saudi’s GDP.
All it needs for now is for those hungry for adventure to check out this luxury regenerative tourism hotspot.