St. Regis & EDITION Coming To Red Sea, Saudi Arabia (With Overwater Bungalows)

St. Regis & EDITION Coming To Red Sea, Saudi Arabia (With Overwater Bungalows)

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Marriott plans to open two luxury hotels in Saudi Arabia, and I’m almost tempted… but not really.

Marriott opening hotels as part of Red Sea Project

Marriott has signed an agreement with the Red Sea Development Company to develop two new luxury hotels (a St. Regis and an EDITION) as part of the Red Sea Project in Saudi Arabia. The Red Sea Project is one of the first “giga” projects announced by Saudi Arabia’s government, as part of the country’s plan to become more of a tourist destination. This massive project covers 28,000 square kilometers on the west coast of the country, and includes an archipelago of more than 90 natural islands.

Rumor has it that Saudi Arabia’s alcohol ban and other restrictions might not apply with this project, as the goal is to create a destination with international appeal.

Let’s get into the basics of what we know about the two hotels.

St. Regis Red Sea Resort

The St. Regis Red Sea Resort is expected to open in 2023, and will be the brand’s first property in Saudi Arabia. The hotel will be on a private island, and will feature 90 villas, two signature restaurants, an outdoor pool, a fitness center, a spa, and a club for kids. As you can see based on the picture, it looks like the resort will feature overwater bungalows.

St. Regis Red Sea Resort rendering

EDITION Red Sea Resort

The EDITION Red Sea Resort is expected to open in 2023, and will also be the brand’s first property in Saudi Arabia. The hotel is expected to feature 240 guest rooms, including one, two, and three bedroom suites. The hotel will have two signature restaurants, a destination bar, a beach bar, a fitness center, a swimming pool, and a spa.

EDITION Red Sea rendering

Bottom line

Marriott plans to open a St. Regis and EDITION as part of the Red Sea Project in Saudi Arabia. The renderings of the properties look great, though of course the properties being in Saudi Arabia will likely be a turnoff to many.

Marriott isn’t the only hotel brand developing new luxury properties in Saudi Arabia. Back in 2019, Aman announced plans to open three resorts in Saudi Arabia in 2023.

So, who’s planning their Bonvoy getaway to Saudi Arabia?

Conversations (22)
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  1. Patti Guest

    Looking forward to the opening. Uncharted reefs.

  2. Ryan Guest

    Isn’t this the same country that murders journalists?

    Why are these western brands trying to affiliate with such trash?

    Do the hotel perks include avoiding public beheading, and death by dismemberment?

  3. BK Guest

    This project actually includes 9 luxury properties including a Raffles & Fairmont from Accor, a Grand Hyatt, Six Senses and InterContinental from IHG etc etc

  4. Malc Gold

    I've lived in KSA for a decade, and I can attest to the extraordinary changes happening at the moment. As I've said before, all countries have their faults and problematic histories. It's worth noting the Saudis are by far the most polite people I have ever encountered.

    Grey makes some insightful comments. However, I think the proximity he or she mentions will be a factor. Moreover, the closeness of Petra is a noteworthy –...

    I've lived in KSA for a decade, and I can attest to the extraordinary changes happening at the moment. As I've said before, all countries have their faults and problematic histories. It's worth noting the Saudis are by far the most polite people I have ever encountered.

    Grey makes some insightful comments. However, I think the proximity he or she mentions will be a factor. Moreover, the closeness of Petra is a noteworthy – it would be relatively easy to visit Petra from the Red Sea. From Petra it's very easy to pop into Israel too. (I also think there has been a sea-change in how Saudis view their own country. Whether or not they feel inclined to visit these properties specifically remains unknown, but they're much more keen on travelling in their own country now.)

  5. Grey New Member

    One of the big problems that I see is the price points. Egypt can manage to be a popular tourist destination because it is extremely affordable, so anybody can go, including people who legitimately want to go and people who just want a decent holiday and that is what is in their price range. (Also, Egypt has things to see)
    Saudi seems to be interested only in the ultra luxury segment. The problem is...

    One of the big problems that I see is the price points. Egypt can manage to be a popular tourist destination because it is extremely affordable, so anybody can go, including people who legitimately want to go and people who just want a decent holiday and that is what is in their price range. (Also, Egypt has things to see)
    Saudi seems to be interested only in the ultra luxury segment. The problem is that people who can afford 500 EUR+ per night can afford to go anywhere. What does Saudi offer that any of those other places don't? Perhaps if they could convince the ultra-rich from other Gulf states that it is okay to let your hair down for a weekend getaway in Saudi, they could make it work. Because the only advantage over Maldives or Polynesia is proximity. And for a longer holiday, most probably don't mind a longer flight.
    But convincing those nearby that Saudi is fine for a weekend of debauchery (which seems what most in the gulf tend to look for on a holiday) would surely be an uphill battle.
    And it is still far enough from Europe that it wouldn't really be a weekend trip for most, so I am really not convinced that there are enough reasons for this to be super successful in the near future.
    Also, they can either start modestly and try to fill up fewer rooms and build demand naturally, but this would mean that there is not much to do when you get there and would tend to mean less infrastructure, etc. Or they could build a massive resort with loads of hotels and shops and restaurants etc. but then it risks feeling like a ghost town.
    It will surely be interesting to see how they move forward, and if they even get Saudis interested, because most saudis I know have no interest in holidaying in their own country, and only view other gulf states as a place for a night or weekend of drinking and sex. So I think the best way forward might be for them to become extremely child friendly and be a place that parents want to bring their children. Because if they could make a name as the ultra luxurious family friendly people, that could attract people from around the world who might be willing to overlook the lack of adult fun in exchange for a top notch experience that includes the children.

  6. Vin Guest

    I forget how I navigated there, but saw the development also includes a Grand Hyatt, Six Senses, and a couple others.

    Seems like this project is meant to be an alternative to the Maldives, and when you think about it, the two aren't that different. Maldives also has strict Islamic rules outside the resort islands, such as alcohol not being allowed and a ban on homosexuality. It may not have quite as bad human rights...

    I forget how I navigated there, but saw the development also includes a Grand Hyatt, Six Senses, and a couple others.

    Seems like this project is meant to be an alternative to the Maldives, and when you think about it, the two aren't that different. Maldives also has strict Islamic rules outside the resort islands, such as alcohol not being allowed and a ban on homosexuality. It may not have quite as bad human rights violations as Saudi, but they still flog their women at a much higher rate than men and is definitely stricter than some Middle Eastern countries. Pick your poison I guess

    1. FNT Delta Diamond Guest

      My guess is the KSA bans Saudis from visiting this tourist enclave and allow alcohol and bikinis for Western tourists. It would be a huge propaganda coup.

  7. Luke Guest

    "a destination bar, a beach bar"

    Unless alcohol is allowed, serving what, fruit juices and shirley temples? Or perhaps it will be like Maldives where alcohol isnt allowed to be transported into and out of the mainland of KSA but directly consumed there.

  8. DenB Platinum

    I'm inclined towards the "travel helps us know each other" mindset, rather than the opposite, which is something like cancel culture. Ben has written on this and I think mostly he's in the "travel builds bridges" camp also. KSA is perhaps still a stretch for some of us but I would go, if the value was okay. My Saudi ex-boyfriend (gay) tells me about the incredibly rapid changes on the ground for women, including his...

    I'm inclined towards the "travel helps us know each other" mindset, rather than the opposite, which is something like cancel culture. Ben has written on this and I think mostly he's in the "travel builds bridges" camp also. KSA is perhaps still a stretch for some of us but I would go, if the value was okay. My Saudi ex-boyfriend (gay) tells me about the incredibly rapid changes on the ground for women, including his 4 sisters, one of which is a surgeon, one a virologist, both of whom drive. I remember his dripping scorn at my caricature of Saudi life (gays are executed in the public square, etc) when he said to me "Grindr works perfectly well in Jeddah".

    No, my government shouldn't sell them billions of dollars worth of armoured vehicles. No, MBS shouldn't be free, he should be in prison for life for Koshoggi's murder. Yes, I'd go to a Saudi Red Sea resort with my boyfriend. If there's a purity test, please please can I fail it?

    1. Aaron Guest

      "including his 4 sisters, one of which is a surgeon, one a virologist, both of whom drive"

      Unfortunately, they still need a male relative or "guardian" to get certain things done for them...

      "Grindr works perfectly well in Jeddah"

      Only with a VPN. And ask him next time what would happen if he kissed a man on the mouth in public...

    2. DenB Platinum

      So, the purity test, then. I guess I'll have to boycott The United States of America because they still execute people. In 2021.

      I'll miss San Francisco and Palm Springs. And Manhattan, especially the Village...

    3. Aaron Guest

      Oh please. It isn't even a close comparison between the US and KSA. The US differs wildly from area to area, state to state, etc. KSA is the same no matter where you go.

    4. DenB Platinum

      Had me until last sentence. But I defer to your greater knowledge. You've been there in person, and I haven't.

    5. Lune New Member

      But here is the thing: I doubt you'll actually meet many Saudis at these resorts. They seem to be essentially walled off resorts only for internationals. Sort of like Jamaica's all inclusive resorts that are cut off from the rest of the island. So who exactly will you be getting to know?

      I get that Saudia Arabia is trying to change its image, and I also get that plenty of people are happy to go...

      But here is the thing: I doubt you'll actually meet many Saudis at these resorts. They seem to be essentially walled off resorts only for internationals. Sort of like Jamaica's all inclusive resorts that are cut off from the rest of the island. So who exactly will you be getting to know?

      I get that Saudia Arabia is trying to change its image, and I also get that plenty of people are happy to go to a resort for its beaches and actively avoid any interaction with the locals. But anyone who vacations at one of these properties and then thinks he's "seen" KSA or now has gotten to "know" the average Saudi is delusional.

      If we accept that premise, that this is a high end resort for rich foreigners to cavort with each other and zero Saudis (outside of the staff, 90% of whom will likely be workers from countries like India or Philippines), then Grey's comments become very relevant. Why this resort over the numerous other high end hotels in gorgeous settings all around the world? Maybe there will be something unique. But right now, I don't see anything that would compel me to visit here vs Maldives, Tahiti, Israel, or even a high end Caribbean resort.

    6. Aaron Guest

      @Lune

      Yeah, that sounds right. I mean, movies are still edited and censored in KSA, I doubt they want women in bikinis parading around on the beach and people boozing it up.

      Dubai and Bahrain can get away with it, KSA is still a few decades away from that.

    7. Ed Gold

      Travel does help us know each other, but that's not really applicable here if we're talking an expensive, curated resort completely separated from any sort of local culture. There will be no bridges built here - you'll come, hang out at the resort, and at most, you'll meet the migrants that work at the resort. This isn't Saudi Arabia opening its doors to expose its culture. Otherwise, I'd agree with you in principle.

  9. Joe1293 Guest

    @FNT Delta Diamond
    IHG has properties in Syria, Iran, and Afghanistan
    I believe Hilton has some properties over there as well

    1. FNT Delta Diamond Guest

      I don't believe this to be true. I am unaware of any IHG property in Syria, Iran or Afghanistan. I think I read somewhere about an Accor in Iran but I don't know if that ever happened. I know there were a Four Seasons and a pre-Marriott/Starwood merger Sheraton in Syria but those were deflagged because of international sanctions.

  10. FNT Delta Diamond Guest

    What’s ironic is Marriott has deals with both Qatar and the Saudis. The two countries don’t necessarily get along to put it mildly. I would love to know how they manage that, especially in yearly owner conferences. And how are they going to handle the Marriott LGBTQ advocacy? Marriott sure manages to do biz with a lot of shady regimes. Cuba, Venezuela, Egypt, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, China. All that are missing? Iran, Syria and Afghanistan.

    1. Frank Guest

      Considering the Saudi PIF is the largest real estate investor in the world and the Qatari Investment Authority is #2, they are already both owners of multiple Marriott properties already.

  11. Stuart Guest

    Won't this area be a designated special tourist zone allowing for alcohol, etc? I thought that was the whole intent - but I could be wrong.

  12. FNT Delta Diamond Guest

    It is entirely probable that The KSA will allow alcohol in this tourist enclave. I imagine they will also allow bikinis for women.

Featured Comments Most helpful comments ( as chosen by the OMAAT community ).

The comments on this page have not been provided, reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any advertiser, and it is not an advertiser's responsibility to ensure posts and/or questions are answered.

DenB Platinum

I'm inclined towards the "travel helps us know each other" mindset, rather than the opposite, which is something like cancel culture. Ben has written on this and I think mostly he's in the "travel builds bridges" camp also. KSA is perhaps still a stretch for some of us but I would go, if the value was okay. My Saudi ex-boyfriend (gay) tells me about the incredibly rapid changes on the ground for women, including his 4 sisters, one of which is a surgeon, one a virologist, both of whom drive. I remember his dripping scorn at my caricature of Saudi life (gays are executed in the public square, etc) when he said to me "Grindr works perfectly well in Jeddah". No, my government shouldn't sell them billions of dollars worth of armoured vehicles. No, MBS shouldn't be free, he should be in prison for life for Koshoggi's murder. Yes, I'd go to a Saudi Red Sea resort with my boyfriend. If there's a purity test, please please can I fail it?

3
Grey New Member

One of the big problems that I see is the price points. Egypt can manage to be a popular tourist destination because it is extremely affordable, so anybody can go, including people who legitimately want to go and people who just want a decent holiday and that is what is in their price range. (Also, Egypt has things to see) Saudi seems to be interested only in the ultra luxury segment. The problem is that people who can afford 500 EUR+ per night can afford to go anywhere. What does Saudi offer that any of those other places don't? Perhaps if they could convince the ultra-rich from other Gulf states that it is okay to let your hair down for a weekend getaway in Saudi, they could make it work. Because the only advantage over Maldives or Polynesia is proximity. And for a longer holiday, most probably don't mind a longer flight. But convincing those nearby that Saudi is fine for a weekend of debauchery (which seems what most in the gulf tend to look for on a holiday) would surely be an uphill battle. And it is still far enough from Europe that it wouldn't really be a weekend trip for most, so I am really not convinced that there are enough reasons for this to be super successful in the near future. Also, they can either start modestly and try to fill up fewer rooms and build demand naturally, but this would mean that there is not much to do when you get there and would tend to mean less infrastructure, etc. Or they could build a massive resort with loads of hotels and shops and restaurants etc. but then it risks feeling like a ghost town. It will surely be interesting to see how they move forward, and if they even get Saudis interested, because most saudis I know have no interest in holidaying in their own country, and only view other gulf states as a place for a night or weekend of drinking and sex. So I think the best way forward might be for them to become extremely child friendly and be a place that parents want to bring their children. Because if they could make a name as the ultra luxurious family friendly people, that could attract people from around the world who might be willing to overlook the lack of adult fun in exchange for a top notch experience that includes the children.

2
Vin Guest

I forget how I navigated there, but saw the development also includes a Grand Hyatt, Six Senses, and a couple others. Seems like this project is meant to be an alternative to the Maldives, and when you think about it, the two aren't that different. Maldives also has strict Islamic rules outside the resort islands, such as alcohol not being allowed and a ban on homosexuality. It may not have quite as bad human rights violations as Saudi, but they still flog their women at a much higher rate than men and is definitely stricter than some Middle Eastern countries. Pick your poison I guess

1
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