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Saudi Arabia’s giga-project NEOM envisions a revolutionary future for travel — one that blends sustainability, innovation, access to nature, and luxury to redefine the way we explore the world. As its ambitious plans come to life, NEOM could become the world's first destination to establish a groundbreaking standard in immersive, eco-conscious, and transformative travel experiences.

This sponsored content was created in collaboration with a Skift partner.

This content was created collaboratively by NEOM and Skift’s branded content studio, SkiftX.

As the world of travel rebuilds post-pandemic, the buzz around sustainable tourism has never been greater. Travelers, industry leaders, and local communities alike are becoming more mindful of their carbon footprint, realizing the impact their travel choices have on the planet. According to Skift Research’s Sustainability and Remote Work report, a large majority of people worldwide believe sustainable travel is important, revealing a global shift towards more environmentally conscious tourism. 

As the travel industry focuses on rebuilding better, Saudi Arabia is building well from the start with its ambitious new development, NEOM. Located in the country’s northwest region and spanning more than 26,500 square kilometers (10,200 square miles) — 95 percent of which has been set aside for nature — NEOM is a $500 billion giga-project that aims to set a new standard in destination management and the development of a seamless journey, by learning from other destinations that have scaled before them.

“NEOM is not just a place but an idea that serves as a living lab for 14 sectors, each pushing the boundaries in their respective areas. From architecture and planning to mobility, sport, health, energy, technology, environment, and nature, we’re a fully integrated ecosystem that aims to deliver a better future for humankind and the planet,” said Peter Fitzhardinge, director of marketing at NEOM Tourism.

Fitzhardinge continued, “Because we’re driven by the core fundamental of what’s good for the environment, everything NEOM does will support sustainability. We don’t have to negotiate like other destinations. It’s effectively ingrained in every decision.”

Charting New Paths

With the world becoming more interconnected, travelers are increasingly drawn to unique, off-the-beaten-path experiences. Skift explores this in its 2023 Megatrend, “The Anywhere Traveler Puts New Destinations on the Map”: “…the anywhere traveler [is] a mid-career aspiring jetsetter with the wealth and time to travel nearly anywhere but discriminating enough to not visit just anywhere. This group has a strong passion for experiences that takes them off the traditional travel pathways to less obvious destinations.”

Data from Skift Research supports this. Seventy percent of American millennials and Gen Zs reportedly seek out destinations that their family and friends aren’t familiar with. This trend is even more prominent in China, where 90 percent of young travelers shared the same inclination. The UK, Australia, and India aren’t far behind, reflecting a growing global shift toward exploring the unknown.

As a relatively undiscovered region with untold stories and possibilities, NEOM presents an irresistible invitation for modern-day adventurers to curb their appetite for exploration. The destination is a mystery to many, with few people having had the opportunity to travel there, giving it the appeal of the “unseen, untrod, and unexplored.”

“As a new project, we’ve been conducting deep research into the minds of travelers. One of the key insights we’ve found is around the desirability of ‘the uncharted.’ With the homogenization of travel, you can get pretty much everything everywhere now. The world is melding into one. Yet within all of us is an explorer. It’s in our being and our DNA. It’s why we go further to find the unique. This gives NEOM an incredible allure,” Fitzhardinge said.

Exploring NEOM’s Diverse Destinations

As the largest giga-project in the region, NEOM represents a blank canvas with vast potential. Some of the destination’s ambitious goals include preserving 95 percent of the land and sea for nature conservation and establishing the world’s largest coral garden. NEOM will also contribute to the Saudi Green Initiative by planting 100 million trees, shrubs, and grasses, and restoring 1.5 million hectares (3.7 million acres) of natural habitat by 2030.

To date, NEOM has revealed a number of key destinations that will appeal to tourists of all sorts – namely Sindalah, Trojena, and THE LINE. Each of these connect to one another and are thoughtfully integrated within the region’s spectacular natural landscape, 95 percent of which will be preserved for nature. As part of the region’s ongoing development, more destinations are set to be revealed in the future.

Opening its door to the world in early 2024, Sindalah is a coastal region featuring three luxury hotels. With its pristine beaches and crystal-clear waters, Sindalah offers visitors an idyllic setting for water sports, culinary experiences, and Red Sea exploration. A 6,474-yard par 70 golf course offers 360-degree sea views while the marina — which features serviced offshore buoys for superyachts — makes an ideal gateway to the Red Sea.

Sindalah: A luxury island destination in the Red Sea. Source: NEOM

Trojena will offer travelers the opportunity to escape amongst the mountains of NEOM. At elevations of over 2,400m, Trojena not only offers spectacular views and vistas and clean mountain air, but comfortable temperatures that are on average 10 degrees cooler than the surrounding region, as well as three months of winter snowfall. 

Its six diverse and distinct districts — Gateway, Discover, Valley, Fun, Relax, and Explore – combine to complement the natural environment and offer over 100 indoor and outdoor experiences and activities all year round. These include everything from skiing and water sports, to stargazing, outdoor entertainment, and cultural exhibitions and festivals. 

Trojena is unique in many ways — its 30km of ski slopes, offering the first outdoor skiing experience in the GCC, are just one of the reasons to visit. Its architecturally crafted freshwater lake, The Vault (a vertical village set between two converging mountain peaks), and the fact that there’s no ‘off season’ like many other global mountain resorts are all reasons too. As is the choice of over 3,500 keys from leading global luxury and eco-hospitality brands such as 25hours, Morgans Originals, and Collective Retreats, each providing a different experience and setting.

Trojena plans to open to its first guests in 2026, host the Asian Winter Games in 2029, and welcome as many as 700,000 annual visitors by 2030.

Trojena: NEOM’s year-round mountain destination. Source: NEOM

THE LINE is a ground-breaking vision of hyperconnected, car-free future communities. Set within a vast nature reserve, it provides a unique living experience where immediate access to nature is a daily reality. By suspending and layering city functions, residents will enjoy mobility in three dimensions — upwards, downwards, and across. Occupying a mere 34 square kilometers (13 square miles), this linear city will be powered by 100 percent renewable energy.

“Our concept defies the convention of the sprawling city and places it — neighborhood by neighborhood — into a single 500-meter-high (1,640 foot) building, 170 kilometers (105 miles) long. For a city of 9 million people, it will only use 2 percent of the space that London uses to house its 9 million. With no roads, no cars, and all powered on renewables, THE LINE will redefine the city in a more sustainable way. It will be a place the entire world will want to experience,” Fitzhardinge said.

THE LINE: A revolutionary urban living concept. Source: NEOM.

Looking Ahead

As NEOM emerges on the global stage, it boldly rejects the cookie-cutter approach to eco-tourism, opting instead to become the first net-positive destination where travelers not only “leave no trace” but actually “leave it better.” The destination will offer a dynamic app experience, enabling visitors to make conscious choices at each stage of their journey.

“From the transportation you choose to the food you eat, the activities you take part in, and even the purchases you make, you have the power to craft an itinerary that leaves a positive legacy. Our app will give you a clear picture of the good you’re creating for the environment and the local economy,” Fitzhardinge said.

Fitzhardinge describes NEOM’s philosophy as “of this Earth but not of this world.” He explained, “I see NEOM as a wonderful alchemy, taking a raw and ancient land and combining it with ideas that will shape the future. We have little holding us back, and we’re at the forefront of breaking new ground in thinking and doing. This is the spirit of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 and NEOM is at its core.”

For more information about NEOM, click here.

This content was created collaboratively by NEOM and Skift’s branded content studio, SkiftX.

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Tags: destinations, SkiftX Showcase: Destinations, tourism

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