The 28,000 square kilometer tourism megaproject will have a dedicated airport opening to travelers towards the end of 2023, Abdullah al-Zahrani said at the conference.
It will allow visitors to “explore other country dimensions beyond the religious,” al-Zahrani said.
The Red Sea Project intends to open the conservative Kingdom to a new type of traveler, in contrast to the millions of pilgrims who visit Islam’s two holy cities of Mecca and Medina each year.
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman announced the project in 2017 as part of the wide-ranging Vision 2030 plan to diversify the country’s economy away from fossil fuels.
But even though the seaside resort will showcase the “sea, sand, and sun,” not often associated with the Kingdom, it will not take away from the cultural heritage of Saudi Arabia, al-Zahrani said.
“Saudi Arabia is the heart of the Islamic world, and it’s going to continue to be the heart of the Islamic world, the heart of the Arabic world as well,” he continued.
By the end of 2024, the multi-faceted destination will comprise 3,000 rooms across 16 separate resorts – two inland and 14 on the coast.
When the second construction phase finishes in 2030, there will be 8,000 rooms in 22 different resorts.
“We are introducing quality destinations that will shift and change the mindset and the lifestyle of people visiting destinations and exploring a new area,” al-Zahrani said.
Saudi Arabia has made strides in recent years to attract tourists to a traditionally closed country to outsiders.
These include the introduction of a tourist e-visa in 2019, which allows travelers to stay in the country for up to 90 days after filling in a form and paying a fee of $128 (480 riyals).
The Red Sea Project was one of several tourist destinations announced by the Crown Prince, including the NEOM megacity and the Diriyah Gate development in Riyadh.