Skift Take

Red Sea Global Hospitality means business and has direct funding from one of the world's largest state wealth funds.

Red Sea Global, the project developer in Saudi Arabia, is building up its hotel business, and it’s backed by a fund with more money than the market values of Hilton, Marriott and Accor combined.

Projects include the 73-room overwater villa project called Sheybarah, a 60-room luxury hotel tucked into the mountains, and an entire private island near Jeddah called Thuwal.

The plan is to open 16 hotels by 2025, and another 34 before 2030, though most of these are operated by global companies and not Red Sea Global.

Red Sea Global Hospitality is set up as a department within Red Sea Global and not its own company, a spokesperson said.

Red Sea Hotels Confirmed So Far

  • Desert Rock Resort — 60 keys (operated by Red Sea Global Hospitality)
  • Faena The Red Sea — 150 keys (operated by Faena/Accor)
  • Fairmont Red Sea — 200 keys (operated by Accor)
  • Four Seasons Resort The Red Sea — 149 keys (operated by Four Seasons)
  • Grand Hyatt The Red Sea — 430 keys (operated by Hyatt)
  • InterContinental The Red Sea — 210 keys (operated by IHG)
  • Jumeirah The Red Sea — 159 keys (operated by Jumeirah)
  • Miraval The Red Sea — 180 keys (operated by Hyatt)
  • Nujuma, A Ritz-Carlton Reserve — 63 keys (operated by Marriott)
  • Raffles The Red Sea — 200 keys (operated by Accor)
  • Rosewood The Red Sea — 200 keys (operated by Rosewood)
  • Shebara Sheybarah Island — 73 keys (operated by Red Sea Global)
  • SLS The Red Sea — 153 keys (operated by Ennismore/Accor)
  • Six Senses Southern Dunes — 76 keys (operated by IHG)
  • The Red Sea Edition – 240 keys (operated by Marriott)
  • St. Regis The Red Sea — 90 keys (operated by Marriott)

Staffing Up At Red Sea Hotels

Red Sea Global Hospitality is already on a hiring spree. Key positions currently open include a general manager and resort manager, chefs and numerous department heads.

Red Sea Global is wholly owned by the kingdom’s sovereign wealth fund, the Public Investment Fund (PIF), where crown prince Mohammed bin Salman sits as chairman. The fund is estimated to have assets worth over $600 billion and is the prince’s main source for funding tourism development.

Red Sea Global has appointed a new head of hospitality, Sebastien Carre, who was previously with Four Seasons for over 20 years. He was its regional vice president out of Mauritius for two years, giving him experience in the sorts of markets Saudi is competing against with its new archipelago project.

Carre will be leading the “hospitality function [of The Red Sea] and assembling a team of talented hospitality specialists, best in class craftsmen and women,” according to a statement from Red Sea.

Four Seasons has close ties to Saudi Arabia. Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal, a billionaire investor, owns more than 20% of Four Seasons through his own investment vehicle and used to own more than 40% until 2021. Prince Al-Waleed also owns 50% of the upcoming Four Seasons resort at The Red Sea, valued at more than half a billion dollars.

Going Global

Red Sea Global has already confirmed it will announce numerous other self-operated hotels and giga-projects in the future, including outside of Saudi Arabia.

Red Sea Global is working on another project that will house more affordable hotel options. Group CEO John Pagano confirmed the development to Skift in December, adding that it will open before 2030 and introduce thousands more hotel rooms to the kingdom’s burgeoning tourism sector.

“Mid-market has a huge market potential and there are some locations that are better suited to that, closer to larger urban areas,” Pagano said. “When we move to more mid-scale, we’ll start getting into the three-star (hotel) offerings, different products, different positioning, and different target audiences. It’s about being strategic across the entire Red Sea coast.”

“As you get into the more mid-scale offerings, the hotel sizes get bigger because you need that scale to make them financially viable. Our sites are very large, many thousands of keys.”

In the same interview, he added that developments in Europe are in the works but for now, Saudi is the focus.

Middle East Hotel Groups

Under the banner of the Saudi Vision 2030 – the prince’s mission to diversify his economy away from oil – the kingdom has invested heavily into hospitality and tourism.

The Public Investment Fund and other Saudi investment funds have put money into operators such as Ennismore, Habitas and Aman, all three of which later went on to announce hotels in the country.

Red Sea Global Hospitality joins a small list of ‘home-grown’ hotel companies in Saudi. Boutique Group is the other major one. It is also part of the Public Investment Fund, designed specifically to transform former palaces and government buildings in Saudi into upmarket boutique hotels.

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Tags: hospitality news, hotel news, Saudi Vision 2030, The Red Sea

Photo credit: A render of The Red Sea. Used for illustrative purposes only. Red Sea Global

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