Saudi Arabia’s futuristic destination Neom to welcome first tourists by 2024

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Neom, Saudi Arabia’s $500 billion gigacity, would welcome its first tourist by 2024, a senior official has said.

Andrew McEvoy, head of tourism at Neom, aims to develop a futuristic destination that rivals the human imagination. He said the city would have built hotels and be ready to welcome the first group of tourists within the next two years.

“Our first tourism asset will open in early 2024,” McEvoy told the Khaleej Times in an interview on the sidelines of the Arabian Travel Market held at the Dubai World Trade Centre.

He said hospitality giants have already committed to join us. “There are a number of brands coming in. None of them have been announced yet. So I won’t do that here,” McEvoy said when asked about hotel chains that Neom will host.

He said the first announcement of an asset is expected a few months from now.

Named from a combination of the Greek word for ‘new’ and the Arabic term for ‘future’, Neom seeks to redefine the future of humanity with advanced technology and a sustainable way of life. Built on the Red Sea in Saudi Arabia’s northwest Tabuk province and set to be 33 times larger than New York City, Neom is the brainchild of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman who is conducting a pioneering experiment to modernize the very conservative Muslim. country. The giga project is also part of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 plan to diversify the economy and move away from dependence on hydrocarbons.

With the hyperloop, super-fast trains, flying drone taxis, floating cities, ski resorts, exhibition and conference centers, luxury hotels, performance halls and its airports, Neom boasts to be an ultra-modern fantasy land, but one that will be self-sufficient on food, running on net-zero energy and with its legal system outside the Kingdom.

Line

One of the most ambitious projects announced by Neom is The Line, a 170 kilometer long city without streets or cars that will accommodate 2 million people when completed. The linear development of AI-based hyper-connected communities will be powered entirely by clean energy. Walkability will define life on THE LINE – all essential daily services, such as schools, medical clinics, recreation facilities and green spaces, will be within a five minute walk.

Oxagon, the floating city

The official said work is underway at Oxagon, the floating city and an industrial complex that will showcase a new model for future low-impact manufacturing hubs. Oxagon’s industrial development plan will focus on seven sectors – sustainable energy, autonomous mobility, water innovation, sustainable food production, health and well-being, construction and modern technology and digital manufacturing, including telecommunications, space technology and robotics.

Trojena

Trojena will be the new world destination for mountain tourism. The new year-round tourist destination will include a series of facilities such as the ski village, ultra-luxury family and wellness resorts, a wide range of retail stores and restaurants, in addition to sporting activities , including a ski slope, water sports and mountain biking, as well as an interactive nature reserve.

After its big announcement in 2017, how much of Neom is finished now? McEvoy says work is underway on three of his major projects.

“A lot of early work is ongoing and underway. So work in a lot of these master plan approved areas is ongoing.”

He said around 10,000 construction workers were currently in Neom. “And there are about 1,500 of us working for the project, leading and managing different sectors.”

McEvoy said an island development is expected to open by the end of next year.

“So that’s really going to kick us off. And then after that a lot of dominoes start falling. So our first assets on The Line (will be finished) by 2025-26, Trojena around 2026.” So you’ll see many more under construction.”

Neom to promote visitor economy

McEvoy said Neom would appeal to all segments of tourists, from individuals to high net worth individuals.

“There are Giga projects that only focus on high net worth and ultra high net worth (tourists). We have many things to come. So we’ll have everything from midscale to high-end luxury and hyper-luxury, and probably invent a new class at some point,” he said.

The vision is to promote a comprehensive visitor economy covering everything from corporate, adventure, outdoor, sports, leisure and entertainment, family, events and conferences. “So it’s the full range of all types of visitors that can come.”

An open and free city

Neom will be a free and open city that will not be bound by Saudi Arabia’s existing legal system, and that will help Neom compete globally, McEvoy said.

“We will have our own authority. So we will have our own laws and regulations. We want to attract investors, attract tenants, residents and tourists. So you will find it to be a very open authority, really welcoming.

When asked if that meant alcohol and gambling would be legal, the manager replied, “I would say nothing is ruled out.”

“We want to be a competitive destination. So we have to assess ourselves.

Neom will end misconceptions about Saudi Arabia

McEvoy said that with the opening of tourism in Neom, “global misconceptions about Saudi Arabia” will change. “I think tourism can help change some of them because tourism is soft diplomacy, it’s a connection between people. They will come to see for themselves a very beautiful welcoming people. It’s something we want to capture.

He said the famed Saudi hospitality would also work in favor of Neom.

“I think the Arab service culture could be something quite exceptional for the world because in the Saudi and Arab world, usually people give you their house, you are treated like a guest. So and you are not a number. You are not just a tourist. He said locals were “very excited to welcome people from all over the world”.

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