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Decoding Saudi Vision 2030: “Be or Not To Be” for hospitality brands?

Updated: Feb 6


 Anastasia Chirkova  is the author of the article titled  Decoding Saudi Vision 2030: “Be or Not To Be” for hospitality brands

Publication date: 31.08.2023




Saudi Arabia is undergoing a transformative journey, fueled by its ambitious Vision 2030. This vision aims to diversify the nation's economy, reduce its dependence on oil, and develop the tourism sector and hospitality brands.


In particular, the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia in 2018 inaugurated a series of ambitious “GIGA” projects. These included NEOM , Red Sea Global, Amaala among others. Le’ts take a look at the reasons why hospitality management companies establish presence in these locations.


Facts about Neom

NEOM (26,500 km) is designed to be a pioneering city with a net-zero carbon footprint. The Saudi Arabian government aims to cultivate NEOM into an expansive clean-energy urban center, covering an area similar to that of Belgium. So, the initiative is projected to achieve self-sustainability over time with estimated return on investment between 13% and 14%.


● A US$500 billion project that will operate as an independent economic zone with an autonomous judicial system.

● NEOM's contribution to Saudi Arabia's GDP is projected to reach US$100 billion by 2030.

Semi-autonomous area, governed by independent laws on par with international standards. It will have relaxed social norms, business regulations, and visa-free access for most nationalities.

● 4 regions in NEOM namely Trojena, Sindalah, Oxagon and a revolutionary linear city The Line (not discussed in the article).


Neom hospitality brands

Trojena - mountainous wellness destination

Trojena is a part of NEOM set to open in 2026. In particular, it is located 50 km from the Gulf of Aqaba coast and covers an area of nearly 60 square kilometers. The region is ideally situated for alpine and adventure sports, experiencing sub-zero winter temperatures. Hence, a year-round moderate climate that is cooler on average than the rest of the GCC.


Key attractive features

● Climate: Cooler on average than the rest of the GCC.

● Ski Slopes: 36 km of ski slopes are planned.

● Retail & Dining: 42,000m² of retail and dining outlet space.

● Accommodation: 3,620+ hotel rooms and serviced apartments.

● Activities: Over 100 indoor and outdoor activities.

● Amphitheater: A 3,000-seat mountainside amphitheater.

● Development: 1,400+km² mountain region with just 5% developed.

● Employment: 10,000 jobs are expected to be created by 2030.

● Tourism: 700,000 annual tourists are expected by 2030.

● Winter Sports: 3 months of winter snow skiing.


Designed as a mountainous wellness paradise, Trojena will host several luxury hospitality brands:


Anantara Trojena

It includes 270 keys, private pools, lake or mountain views. Expected opening: 2026. Anantara Trojena is set to boast 270 keys, including rooms and suites. Guests can choose rooms with private pools and either lake or mountain views. Additionaly, amenities include the brand's signature Anantara Spa, a fitness center, an infinity pool, and an on-site helipad. The hotel is expected to open in 2026.


● 25hours Trojena

Operated by Ennismore Hotels, the hotel will feature an in-house cinema, farm-to-table restaurant, bike workshop and co-working space. Apart from these, it will provide a rooftop restaurant with a pool which is expected to open in 2026.


● Collective Retreats

They are a pioneer in outdoor experiential hospitality. The retreat, named Collective Trojena, is slated to open at the start of 2026. This luxurious outdoor hospitality experience will include 60 open-air rooms, communal campfires, and creative culinary experiences.


The guests will have direct access to a full array of year-round and world-class outdoor activities. Among them are skiing, snowboarding, high-altitude training, paragliding, mountain biking, hiking, and water sports. The retreat will be powered by a combination of solar and wind energy and will employ technology in water desalination and brine processing to achieve zero waste residual.


● Morgans Original Trojena

Another property from Ennismore Hotels, Morgan's Original will offer world-class dining outlets, a lavish 2,000-square-meter spa and bathhouse. Besides, immersive art exhibitions, and a rooftop bar. Expected to open in 2026.


● The Chedi Trojena

Located in the Slope Residences, offering a range of experiences. Expected opening: 2026.

hospitality brands in Neom

Sindalah - water sports and luxury heaven for guests and hospitality brands

It is claimed to be a luxury island destination due to open already in 2024. Besides, Sindalah will feature three Marriott hotels including two Luxury Collection properties and one Autograph Collection property. It is set to open in 2024.


● Marriott's Luxury Collection

Τwo properties are expected to open by 2024. The first is a beach resort with 70 luxury rooms and suitesSpecifically, it includes one-, two-, three-, and four-bedroom villas, all with private pools. The second is an all-suite property offering 115 luxury suites.


● Autograph Collection

This property will offer 66 rooms and suites, including one- and two-bedroom villas, multiple dining options, a kids club, and a spa. This is expected to open in 2024.


● The Ritz-Carlton, NEOM

230 rooms, including 12 villas.


● St. Regis, NEOM

200 rooms, including 12 villas.


● Four Seasons

The resort will span approximately 840,000 square meters and will be a part of Sindalah's luxury marina, yacht club, and 9-hole golf course. In addition, the resort will feature 225 guest rooms and suites, along with 52 villas. They will be ranging from one to four-bedroom configurations and access to private yacht docks. LUCA DINI Design & Architecture is in charge of the Resort's architecture.


NEOM has also entered into a partnership with BWA Yachting, a global leader in superyacht concierge services. Sindalah, NEOM's luxury island, will offer more than 5,000 berths and aims to become the Red Sea's first ultra-prime superyacht destination.


hospitality brands in Neom and innovations

Oxagon - the urban living hub

The project aligns with NEOM's commitment to be fully powered by clean energy. For this reason, they will utilize renewable resources such as solar, wind, and green hydrogen-based energy.


● Yotel

is set to be the first hotel to open in Oxagon, NEOM's Research and Innovation district. The hotel is planned to open its doors in 2025 with 300 keys. The hotel is estimated to cost around $44 million. The hotel will offer innovative SmartBeds. They are space-saving gliding devices that can convert from flat beds to a sofa at the touch of a button.


● Digital Experience

Yotel is known for its automated digital receptions, allowing for contactless check-in in less than one minute.


● Robotic Concierge

The hotel will also feature at least one Yobot, the company's robotic concierge. It can deliver room service or restock housekeeping items in guest rooms.


● Dining and Co-working Space

The hotel will have a communal dining space known as Komyuniti, which will also be set up for co-working.


● IHG Hotels & Resorts

a global leader in the hospitality sector, has signed a franchise agreement to open a Hotel Indigo property in Oxagon, NEOM. The Hotel Indigo property is slated to open in 2026 and will be situated in Oxagon's first residential community.The Hotel Indigo property will feature 250 keys.


● Kerten Hospitality

is an Ireland-based company. They reached an agreement with NEOM to launch its House Residence brand within the Oxagon development. This will include an upscale 200-unit serviced apartment community set to open in 2025.


Technology and Innovation at Neom

According to an opinion piece by Chris Newman, Executive Director of NEOM Hotel Development, NEOM is investing in cutting-edge technology. Among them are AI-powered cognitive concierges and biometric check-ins. Actually, these innovations aim to redefine guest experiences and set new standards forhospitality brands.


tech innovation at Neom and for hospitality brands

Notable Innovations supported by the Partners


Volocopter

Innovation: Developing autonomous air taxis and cargo drones.

Sustainability: Aims to offer a zero-emissions, noise-free flying experience.


Van der Hoeven

Innovation: Specializes in high-tech horticultural solutions.

Sustainability: Focuses on creating sustainable, closed-loop agricultural systems.


ACWA Power

Innovation: Leading developer of power generation projects.

Sustainability: Committed to renewable energy solutions, including solar and wind power.


Desert Technologies

Innovation: Provides solar energy solutions.

Sustainability: Aims to make renewable energy more accessible and affordable.


Air Products

Innovation: Global leader in industrial gases and chemicals.

Sustainability: Focused on producing hydrogen as a clean fuel source.


Alcohol Laws in NEOM: what hoteliers need to consider

alcohol laws in Neom

Traditionally, Saudi Arabia has had strict alcohol laws, in line with Sharia Law. Consuming, buying, selling, or trading alcohol in Saudi Arabia is a punishable offense. However, Saudi Arabia's Vision 2030 has been a game-changer to consider for hospitality brands.


One of the most groundbreaking changes is the relaxation of alcohol laws in specific regions like NEOM. According to a report by Wired, NEOM plans to serve alcohol at one of its beach resorts on Red Sea’s Sindalah Island.


Moreover, the resort will offer a wine bar, a separate cocktail bar, and a bar for champagne and desserts. This is a significant shift, considering that 97% of expatriate respondents mentioned that access to alcohol is an essential incentive to move to NEOM.


Red Sea Global: A Strong Contender for NEOM

Red Sea Global (28,000 km) is another ambitious project with the aim to be a global tourism destination focusing on conservation. In particular, it is set to welcome its first guests in 2023. The project is also LEED certified. Actually, it is the first development in the Middle East which received platinum certification. This comes under the globally recognized standard for green construction, LEED for cities.


By the end of 2024, the project will welcome 13 luxury resorts, including:


Six Senses Southern Dunes: The first to open, offering 76 rooms nestled within desert mountains.

Nujuma, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve: An ultra-exclusive resort with 63 overwater and beach villas.

The St Regis Red Sea Resort: Featuring 90 villas, some overwater, on a private island.

Desert Rock: A 60-key hyper-luxury resort dramatically situated within craggy rocks.

Four Seasons Resort at The Red Sea: Offering 149 rooms and suites on Shura Island.

The Red Sea Edition: A lifestyle-driven hotel with 240 guest rooms and suites.

Faena The Red Sea: A 150-key resort focusing on experiential hospitality.

Grand Hyatt: The largest of the Shura Island hotels with 430 rooms.

Intercontinental Resort Red Sea: A 210-room resort on Shura Island.

Jumeirah The Red Sea: A beachy resort with 159 keys.

Miraval The Red Sea: A 180-room luxury wellness escape.

Fairmont The Red Sea: Offering 200 guest rooms next to an 18-hole championship golf course.

Raffles Red Sea: An architectural marvel with an array of room and suite options.

hospitality brands in Red Sea Global and tech innovations

Tech innovations and sustainability in Red Sea Global

Red Sea Global, in collaboration with mobile telecom operator Zain KSA, has launched the world's first zero-carbon 5G network. In fact, the network is powered by 100% renewable energy from over 760,000 solar panels built by Red Sea Global.


What’s more, the project was introduced at the Six Senses Southern Dunes. The resort is offering high-speed 5G connectivity in the region. Moreover, the project has installed more than 760,000 photovoltaic panels to power phase one of The Red Sea.


Should Hospitality brands Invest in NEOM or Red Sea Global?


What is attractive for hospitality brands owners and investors?


1. Blank Canvas for Innovation

With no legacy infrastructure, NEOM provides a blank canvas invigorated by predictive and proactive technologies. This is a platform for innovations that can revolutionize guest experiences. A little more relaxed alcohol policy if implemented at Neom will drive international demand.


2. Experiential Hospitality

NEOM Hotel Development is bringing to life properties built around unique, groundbreaking, and diverse concepts. These are carefully tailored to guest profiles, offering services like biometric check-in and AI-powered cognitive concierge services.


3. Efficiency and Sustainability

Cognitive technology will allow NEOM Hotel Development to supercharge efficiencies in energy use and maintenance. Therefore, it will be streamlining hotel operations and automating tasks.


4. Human-Centric Approach

Empowering Saudis is at the center of both projects which is a plus to brands CSR


What are the risks?


● While NEOM offers a plethora of opportunities, investors should be cautious about the ambitious nature of the project. Besides this, concerns are evolving regulations in the region. Therefore, the timely completion and return on investment have been causing reasonable questions.


● Both NEOM and Red Sea Global offer promising futures. However, NEOM seems to be a step ahead in terms of partnerships, technology, and unique offerings like yachting. While Red Sea Global offers a sustainable approach, investor doubts make it a riskier bet. So, for hotels looking to invest in luxury hospitality brands in Saudi Arabia, NEOM appears to be the safer and more promising option.


Today many large chains and smaller hospitality brands are on the fence about their presence in the project. In fact, the ultimate choice is to be a part of one of these ambitious projects. Each one of them will depend on specific goals, risk tolerance, and desired market positioning.


 

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