Saudi Announces Pioneering Luxury Tourism Destination, THE RED SEA and Seventh UNESCO World Heritage Site

Discover both luxury and conservation at Saudi Arabia’s groundbreaking tourism destination, now complemented by the UNESCO-listed Uruq Bani Ma‘arid Reserve.
by Zawani Abdul Ghani
Saudi travel

Photo: The St. Regis Red Sea Resort

Saudi Arabia welcomes discerning travelers to THE RED SEA, a groundbreaking luxury tourism destination nestled in an archipelago of 90 islands spanning 28,000 sq km. Designed by acclaimed architects and operated by leading hospitality brands, this exceptional sanctuary redefines luxury with a commitment to environmental stewardship.

Alhasan Aldabbagh, president of Asia Pacific Markets at Saudi Tourism Authority (STA), describes THE RED SEA as “crafted luxury at its very best” within a geographically diverse and unparalleled destination. Boasting 200km of pristine coastline, the world’s fourth-largest barrier reef, mountains, dormant volcanoes, historical and cultural sites, and thrilling desert adventures, THE RED SEA is a fusion of natural wonders.

THE RED SEA is surrounded by one of the last thriving coral reef ecosystems, hosting over 300 species of coral and 280 species of fish. The archipelago’s low-rise luxury resorts, including Shura Island, Ummahat Islands, Sheybarah Island, Desert Rock, and Southern Dunes, offer an intimate and exclusive experience.

Saudi travel

Nujuma, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve. (Photo: Ritz-Carlton)

To enhance the traveler’s journey, THE RED SEA boasts its own dedicated airport — the Red Sea International Airport (RSI). The airport ensures a seamless experience, with luggage sent directly to the resorts, sparing visitors the typical airport baggage claim procedures.

THE RED SEA’s phased opening, scheduled for completion in 2030, will feature 8,000 rooms in 50 resorts and 1,000 luxury branded residences. The first phase, set to conclude in 2024, introduces 16 resorts with a capacity of 3,000 rooms. The development is designed to protect the flora and fauna, limiting annual visitation to 1 million.


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Conservation and sustainability

The destination is a pioneer in regenerative tourism, committed to a zero waste to landfill and zero-carbon footprint. Electric vehicles, boats, and seaplanes provide eco-friendly transportation, and THE RED SEA is proudly the world’s largest tourism destination powered solely by solar energy.

THE RED SEA offers an array of personalised experiences, from exceptional dive sites, snorkeling, and kayaking over coral reefs to inland adventures like mountain hikes and bike rides across ancient lava fields. Visitors can track migratory birds, explore the region’s wildlife, and immerse themselves in cultural and heritage experiences in AlWajh Old Town. Aspiring astronomers can indulge in stargazing, with plans to become the world’s largest Dark Sky Reserve.

In line with modern luxury, THE RED SEA employs a smart digital destination management system. Virtual concierge services allow visitors to plan and customise their trips, scheduling bespoke activities before arrival. With a mild coastal climate, THE RED SEA stands as a year-round destination, offering unparalleled luxury intertwined with sustainability and environmental responsibility.

Saudi travel

Uruq Bani Ma‘arid Reserve. (Photo: UNESCO)

Preserving natural heritage

Simultaneously, Saudi celebrates the inclusion of Uruq Bani Ma‘arid Reserve in the UNESCO World Heritage List. It marks Saudi’s first UNESCO Natural Heritage Site, and its seventh site with UNESCO World Heritage status.

This 12,750-sq km largely untouched desert ecosystem showcases more than 120 plant species and 526 animal species, including endangered animals like gazelles and the Arabian Oryx. A testament to Saudi’s dedication to conservation, this recognition underscores the nation’s commitment to achieving a balance between conservation and sustainable development, aligning with the objectives of Saudi Vision 2030.

Aldabbagh adds: “The recognition of Uruq Bani Ma‘arid Reserve as a UNESCO Natural Heritage Site is a testament to Saudi’s dedication to preserving our ecosystems and championing our natural heritage. The goal is to achieve a balance between conservation and sustainable development, which is in line with the objectives of Saudi Vision 2030.”

This story originally published on The Peak Singapore.

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