Developers plan for the whole site to run on 100 per cent solar energy and send zero waste to landfill. They’re also capping the amount of visitors at one million a year.
A major part of the region’s attraction to travellers is its long, sandy coastlines, and azure waters. But what’s beneath the waves might be the most exciting thing of all. Coral reefs and diverse marine life are plentiful here and will prove a big draw to aqua fanatics - particularly scuba divers.
So could the Red Sea’s extensive projects turn them into the next big diving destination? Quite possibly.
The Red Sea’s confidence in the quality of its scuba diving locations isn’t unfounded. You only have to look across the water to Egypt’s shores to see some of the most popular diving resorts in the world.
Hurghada and Sharm el-Sheik have long been lauded by divers as among some of the best areas on the planet, boasting multiple wrecks, colourful coral, curious geology and an outstanding abundance of marine life.
As an untouched side of the Red Sea, there’s a lot of potential in Saudi Arabia. Plus, unlike some of Egypt’s more popular resorts, the Red Sea is planning to minimise divers’ impact on the reefs and exercise strict control over its use.
Galaxae, a subsidiary of Red Sea Global, will oversee all diving activities in the area. Working with the Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI), they plan to ensure that sites aren’t overtaxed and aim to maintain the integrity of the marine ecosystem.
“It's not open to everybody; dive companies can’t just come and set up,” John Pagano, Group CEO of The Red Sea, explains.
“This is very much under control because we want to ensure that the sustainability ethos of the company is maintained and that we protect this very precious environment.”
While Pagano can’t name the best sites to see just yet – “We've identified numerous sites; we have a 2,500 square kilometre archipelago which is surrounded by a barrier reef” – the possibilities are enticing.
Last year, a research study of the Al Wajh lagoon (a 2,081 square kilometre area including 92 islands) revealed an incredible amount of diverse habitats and marine life. Some of these included critically endangered species such as the Halavi Guitarfish and Sooty Falcon. It also revealed an eight-metre-high coral colony thought to be nearly 600 years old.
In the future, there’s hope divers will be able to explore the 18th-century ‘merchantman’ shipwreck, believed to be the best-preserved wooden shipwreck in the Red Sea. The wreck still holds cargo from its journey, including jars, porcelain and some of the spices it was carrying.
Pagano also shared some of the efforts developers are making to protect the destination’s best assets, such as their
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Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund will acquire a 10% stake in Heathrow Airport, the busiest airport in Europe. Saudi is buying the share off of Ferrovial of Spain, while Paris-based Ardian will acquire 15 percent in a deal worth £2.37 billion ($3 billion) The deal is being made by the Public Investment Fund, known as PIF, which is chaired by the kingdom’s crown prince.
Submissions will run until 15 March 2024, before they are reviewed by a panel of industry experts. Winners will be announced before, and celebrate at, the ACI Asia-Pacific and the Middle East / ACI World Annual General Assembly, Conference, and Exhibition, taking place in Riyadh, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, from 21–23 May 2023.
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