Sense of Place

Inspired by the desert and the ocean: The Red Sea Development project

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The Red Sea Development Company says a new project in Saudi Arabia is “the world’s most ambitious tourism development”, with a new airport managed by DAA among the key elements.

A new international airport at the heart of the latest ambitious tourism project in Saudi Arabia will feature a spectacular design inspired by the desert and the sea. That’s according to The Red Sea Development Company (TRSDC), owned by the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia.

The company is leading a major development being built over 28,000 square kilometres on Saudi Arabia’s west coast to create a luxury tourism destination. The first phase, including the new airport, is due to be completed by the end of next year.

TRSDC has named DAA International, a division of Irish state-owned airports group DAA and sister company of ARI, as its partner to operate the airport.

Airport design is by international architecture firm Foster + Partners, which has taken its inspiration from the local landscape. The terminal building has been inspired by the forms of the desert, the green oasis, and the sea, and aims to provide a “tranquil and memorable experience” for passengers.

An oasis at the heart of the airport: The terminal interior at the heart of the Red Sea Development project

The roof shells are inspired by the desert dunes and will provide natural shade to passengers in both landside and airside areas. An internal green oasis with a garden has been designed to create a relaxed, resort-like atmosphere within the airport terminal. Construction of a new runway, seaplane runway, taxiways, helipads and a road network for the airport is also under way at the site.

DAA International will manage commercial activities at the new airport. A spokesman said that commercial plans for the new facility are still under discussion. DAA International will also provide airfield and terminal operations, aviation services and facilities management as well as corporate and financial services.

DAA International builds on previous experience in Saudi Arabia. It has operated Terminal 5 at Riyadh King Khalid International Airport since it opened in 2016, with retail services provided by ARI.

“Our state-of-the-art airport will provide a unique gateway for guests arriving at our destination, and this announcement is an important step in bringing the experience to life, ahead of welcoming visitors by the end of 2022,” says TRSDC Chief Executive John Pagano.

Thinking green: The airport will be powered by 100% renewable energy

“DAA International was selected because we are confident that they can deliver not only an airport experience worthy of our luxury destination, but for their commitment to ensuring our sustainability goals are met.”

DAA International Chief Executive Nick Cole says: “The Red Sea Project is an amazing development and we are thrilled to be playing a major part in it by becoming the operator of the new airport.

“The Red Sea International Airport will become a fundamental part of each visitor’s journey to this unique destination, and we believe their holiday experience should start from the moment they land. We intend to deliver a seamless airport experience for passengers, underpinned by a commitment to achieving the development company’s stringent sustainability goals.”

The Red Sea International Airport will serve one million passengers annually by the project’s completion in 2030, with a peak capacity of 900 passengers per hour. Visitor numbers will be limited to one million, based on the environmental carrying capacity of the new Red Sea development. The airport will be powered by 100% renewable energy.

On completion in 2030, The Red Sea Project will comprise 50 hotels, offering up to 8,000 hotel rooms and around 1,300 residential properties across 22 islands and six inland sites. The destination will also include a luxury marina, entertainment and leisure facilities. The first phase of the project, scheduled for completion in 2022, will include the new airport, up to 3,000 hotel rooms, recreational facilities and residential properties.

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The Moodie Davitt eZine Issue 290 | 26 January 2021

The Moodie Davitt eZine is published 15 times per year by The Moodie Davitt Report (Moodie International Ltd). © All material is copyright and cannot be reproduced without the permission of the Publisher. To find out more visit and to subscribe, please e-mail

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