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Wed 8 May 2019 08:53 AM

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Saudi Arabia's Red Sea 'equivalent to Maldives' says IHG boss

Group in talks to open hotel in Red Sea project set for first phase completion by 2022, said Pascal Gauvin

Saudi Arabia's Red Sea 'equivalent to Maldives' says IHG boss
In 2017, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman launched the Red Sea project stretching across 30,000 km of islands and beaches, over 30,000 hotel rooms, an airport, marinas and recreation centres.

The Red Sea in Saudi Arabia is “equivalent” to the Maldives or Seychelles, according to Pascal Gauvin, the managing director of InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) in India, Middle East and Africa.

Speaking to Arabian Business, he said the sea’s unspoiled and preserved area will attract many tourists when project begin to open to the public.

“When I see the Red Sea, which has never been operated, I mean what a privilege. People pay a lot to go to the Maldives or Seychelles, but this is equivalent and an unspoiled area that’s never been seen before. The [Saudi government] wants to preserve the environment, work hard to preserve the site and all that is attractive to bring customers,” he said.

Red Sea project

In 2017, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman launched the Red Sea project stretching across 30,000 km of islands and beaches, over 30,000 hotel rooms, an airport, marinas and recreation centres.

Aimed at attracting tourists, it is expected to increase the kingdom’s GDP to $5.86 billion upon completion, whereby the first phase is expected to be finished by 2022.

IHG is currently in talks to open hotels in the Red Sea project. The group was one of the first hoteliers to open in Saudi in 1975. It currently has 33 hotels and is set to open 12 more hotels in the kingdom over the next 1-2 years.

Significant potential

And while the Red Sea might not become the new Maldives, Gauvin said, it has significant potential.

“I don’t know if [the Red Sea] will become the new Maldives but when I see the Red Sea site, I see potential. We’re already talking to them about potential hotels in this place. When I see the quality of the beach, the seriousness of the development team, it’s quite remarkable and we’re very impressed in the way they want to do it,” Gauvin said.

“We are very used to the country... Our strategy is to participate in all programs like the Red Sea, Neom and other sites and continue our growth,” he said, adding that IHG is expanding its brands in cities including Riyadh, Jeddah and Al Khobar, and is also bringing new brands such as upper scale lifestyle brand Voco, which it opened in Dubai and Khobar this year.

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