Progress is forging ahead for the expansive Red Sea luxury tourism destination spread across 28,000km sq of the Saudi Arabian Coast, including an archipelago of 92 islands.
The project was originally unveiled in 2017 by His Royal Highness Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Crown Prince of Saudia Arabia and chair of The Red Sea Development Company.
Construction began in 2019, and by 2030 the Red Sea Project will comprise 50 resorts across 22 islands and six inland sites, offering 8000 hotel rooms and 1,300 residential properties.
The masterplan takes care to protect and enhance the destination’s pristine natural environment, home to the world's fourth-largest barrier reef system, untouched corals and a significant number of endangered species.
This has meant 75 per cent of the destination’s islands will be undeveloped, while nine have been designated as sites of significant ecological value.
Hailed as the world’s most ambitious regenerative tourism project, the eco-friendly destination will also feature leisure, commercial and entertainment amenities and be powered entirely by renewable energy, ban all single-use plastic and aim for carbon neutrality.
British architecture firm Foster + Partners has recently unveiled a vibrant Coral Bloom design concept for the project’s official gateway island, named Shurayrah Island.
Inspired by indigenous Saudi Arabian flowers and coral, the design will characterise 11 barefoot luxury resorts on the dolphin-shaped island.
Shurayrah’s coral-inspired resorts will underpin the bulk of the 16 hotels in the project’s first phase, due for completion in 2023.
The new concept has been conceived to ensure resorts blend in with the island’s pristine natural environment and are immersed into the landscape to effectively form part of sweeping dunes.
The design sees new beaches created on the island along with a new lagoon, in order to raise the level of the land and provide a defensive layer from the global threat of rising sea levels.
Importantly, the changes aim to preserve or enhance what already exists on the island, without damaging any habitats or natural shores.
Gerard Evenden, head of studio at Foster + Partners, said: “Our vision for Shurayrah is inspired by the island’s natural state, with the hotels designed to give the impression they have just washed up on the beaches and nestled among the dunes almost like driftwood.
“The materials we use are low impact and ensure that the pristine environment is protected, while the additions we make to the island serve to enhance what is already there – hence the name, Coral Bloom.”
Biodiversity considerations take centre stage, with the plan designed to avoid disruption of the island’s mangroves and other habitats, a natural defence from erosion while new habitats are created through landscaping to enhance the island’s natural state.
The proposal also outlines designs for the island’s 11 hotels, adapted to suit traveller expectations post-COVID-19, including more space.
Architecture design firm killa design has also recently revealed plans to contribute to the project with both overwater and on-land villas inspired by neighbouring coral formations.
The Red Sea project is expected to contribute US$5.3bn (€4.79bn, £4.36bn) to the GDP of Saudi Arabia and receive around one million visitors annually.
Once complete, the destination will also feature mountain canyons, dormant volcanoes, ancient culture and heritage sites, a marina and an airport.