The Red Sea Development Company (TRSDC), the developer of Saudi luxury tourism destination The Red Sea Project, plans to release a major package for the terminal buildings of its upcoming international airport, its CEO John Pagano told Zawya in an exclusive interview.  

“We have some big packages coming out over the next few months including the terminal buildings for the airport. We have already started construction on the airside, runways, taxiways, aprons etc. In fact, we have already started paving the actual runway. The airport will open by the end of 2022,” Pagano said. 

In July 2020, the Saudi joint-venture of Nesma & Partners and Almabani won the contract for the construction of the runways, aprons, taxiways, helipad, roads and navigation aids. 

He disclosed that the Coral Bloom master plan, which was announced in February 2021, will be coming to market in the latter part of 2021. The master plan, which hosts the majority of the 16 hotels that form part of Phase 1 of The Red Sea Project, will be built on Shurayrah Island. 

“There are 11 hotels on that island as well as a golf course and these are future packages that are due to come. We have committed 15 billion Saudi riyals ($4 billion) in construction contracts, and we got another 20 billion riyals ($5.3 billion) to go,” said Pagano. 

The 16 hotels that form part of the first phase will house 3,000 keys, he said. 

“By the end of 2022, we will open three new hotels and by the following year, we will open 13 new hotels thus completing Phase 1.”  

He added that two of the three hotels are already under construction and the developer is using off-site manufacturing techniques wherever possible.  

“The first hotel will start delivery on 1 July 2021. A desert resort is also on site,” he said. 


John Pagano, CEO of The Red Sea Development Company(TRSDC)

Airport milestones 

Pagano said the airport will serve one million passengers annually when The Red Sea Project reaches completion in 2030. 

In May, he had told Bloomberg that the Red Sea airport would handle 300,000 passengers by the end of the first phase. “Driving direct flights is going to be challenging but we’re going to look at a hub and spoke arrangement,” he told the agency, adding that airports in Riyadh, Jeddah and Dubai could feed traffic. The report said airport has already started the process of engaging with airlines. 

Foster + Partners is the designer while AECOM is providing airside construction supervision and quality control services for the airport. 

Irish company daa International was appointed the airport’s operator in January. 

In line with TRSDC’s commitment to set new standards in regenerative tourism, the entire transport network at the project, including the airport, will be powered by 100 percent renewable energy.  

In December 2020, the developer had appointed UK-based Mott MacDonald to deliver "a comprehensive and robust analysis" of the total land, sea and air transport needs for the 28,000-square kilometre site, from its initial opening in 2022 to its full completion in 2030. 

Worker accommodation 

The first phase of The Red Sea project includes a new town for the 14,000 people, who will work at the destination.  

“We are building a resort community for them so that they will not only service our guests but will also experience living on the Red Sea,” said Pagano. 

The project also features a construction workers village, which will set new standards in worker welfare. Already 7,500 people are living in the village and the numbers are growing.  

“We expect to have 10,000 people on site,” the TRSDC CEO said.  

“Upon completion in 2030, The Red Sea master plan (developed in partnership with WATG and Buro Happold) aims to deliver 50 hotels (8000 rooms) and between 1,300-1,500 residential units across 22 islands and six inland sites,” he added.  

Tourism development is a key target for Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030, and the kingdom aims for it to account for 10 percent of its GDP by 2030.  

(Reporting by Sona Nambiar; Editing by Anoop Menon) 


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