What is NEOM? It’s a question many of us have had when looking at mind-boggling plans for the new Saudi Arabian development. The world’s boldest and most boundary-pushing new tourism, commercial and residential project, the $500b smart region of NEOM lies in northwestern Saudi Arabia, across the Red Sea from Egypt, and is a key part of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030. Until recent years, the surrounding landscapes of Neom were relatively unknown and unfrequented – the area stretching from the Red Sea onto arid deserts and into mountain ranges, home to only small settlements, but changes are happening. NEOM’s coastline is transforming into a tourism hotspot with luxury island development and beautiful beach resorts, its mountains will soon house the most prominent, and luxurious, ski resort in the Middle East, and the desert will see a 170-km linear city rise from the sands.
NEOM was first announced by HRH Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in 2017 and is now the most anticipated of Vision 2030’s myriad of ground-breaking developments – set to redefine the nation and elevate Saudi Arabia into the world’s tourism, industrial, commercial and luxury residential stage. Currently, four individual developments have been announced for Neom – including Trojena ski resort and Oaxagon industrial city. Neom Bay airport has also recently opened, with direct flights from KSA cities and Dubai, and the luxurious new Neom airline has also been announced – set to launch in 2024.
The tourism developments of NEOM Saudi Arabia
While some of NEOM, and Vision 2030’s, projects can seem years away, the first stage of NEOM is actually opening later this year: the luxury island of Sindalah. Part of the beautiful natural islands of NEOM, that sit just offshore in the warm waters of the Red Sea, Sindalah will be the first of NEOM’s projects to welcome guests – bringing the world a new yachting and holiday destination. The 840,000 square metre island destination will redefine tourism in Saudi Arabia – lapped by waters untouched by pollution and home to 600 native species of marine life.
At the heart of the island is sailing and diving – with Sindalah’s proximity to the Mediterranean and prolonged sailing season thanks to near-year-round great weather. The island has been designed by Luca Dini Design and Architecture, an acclaimed Italian yachting and design firm, who designed the island to emulate the feeling of days on a stylish superyacht.
Sindalah will also boast a handful of luxury hotels – the three currently confirmed being the Kingdom’s first Autograph Collection Hotel by Marriot, alongside two Luxury Collection properties – expected to open by 2024. Sindalah will also be home to a glamorous yacht club, 86-berth marina, 51 luxury retail outlets, a beach club, spa, wellness centre, an 18-hole golf course and plenty of fine dining restaurants.
The newest destination to be announced is Leyja, a futuristic spot in the mountains of NEOM, pitched as the development’s sustainable and eco-tourism hub. Three luxury boutique hotels have been announced for Leyja, yet there are no opening dates or confirmed details thus far. When it opens, Leyja will offer three stunning boutique hotels perched 400 metres high in the mountains of NEOM, above the Gulf of Aqaba, offering an unparalleled hotel experience. The three hotels currently have no operators but will be called Wellness Hotel, Oasis Hotel and Adventure Hotel. Each will have just 40 keys and focus on their namesake activities – all aspects NEOM is keen to promote in the region. In a sneak peek on Instagram, NEOM shared futuristic renders of the three properties, another ultra-luxury project by Saudi’s Public Investment Fund portfolio.
Winter sports enthusiasts will no longer have to venture outside the region for the season – as NEOM will soon be home to a ski resort of its own – Trojena. Located in the mountains of NEOM, the highest peaks in the Kingdom at around 2,600 meters above sea level, Trojena will be the first outdoor ski resort in the GCC. Though seemingly unbelievable due to its proximity to the warm waters of the Red Sea, the average temperature in the mountain region is around 10 degrees Celsius cooler than the rest of the country, dropping to below 0 degrees Celsius in the winter.
Trojena will offer year-round outdoor skiing and adventure snowsports when completed in 2026 – centered around a man-made freshwater lake and the main settlement, ‘The Vault – a vertical village of restaurants, facilities and retail spots. Guests will be able to stay in a series of wellness-focused and family-friendly resorts, along with luxury properties known as ‘slope residences’. Hotels in the pipeline include 25hours – the German-born brand known for operating the coolest hotel in Dubai – and Morgans Original. 25hours will draw inspiration from sci-fi movies, while the Morgans Original hotel will have a 2,000-metre spa and bathroom, a ski-slope roof and even experiment with microclimates. Trojena will encompass six districts – Explore, Discover, Gateway, Valley, Relax and Fun – each bringing a different mood and offering guests different experiences and activities.
The Line is perhaps the most attention-grabbing of NEOM’s developments: a 170-km linear mirrored smart city running through the desert from the Red Sea to Tabuk. The city will be powered entirely by renewable energy and comprise three layers: a surface level for pedestrians and two underground: one for infrastructure and one for transportation. The Line will have no cars, streets or emissions and aims to create 460,000 jobs along with injecting 180 billion SAR (US$48 billion) into the Kingdom’s GDP by 2030. When complete, The Line will be able to accommodate nine million residents and promises a high-quality lifestyle with connections to nature and clean air.