Exclusive interview with Chris Newman, Executive Director, NEOM Hotel Development

With 95% of the land protected for nature, NEOM offers incredible biodiversity
Exclusive interview with Chris Newman, Executive Director, NEOM Hotel Development
Chris Newman, executive director, NEOM Hotel Development

The world is changing fast, and moving into a new era of hospitality. NEOM will move at the same pace with its hotel developments. This will enable NEOM lead the way in business innovation, enhanced livability, and environmental sustainability.

Ahead of the Future Hospitality Summit (FHS) 2023, taking place from 25-27 September at Hilton Yas Island Abu Dhabi, we caught up with Chris Newman, Executive Director, NEOM Hotel Development. Organized by The Bench, FHS brings together the Middle East and Africa’s industry leaders for discussions, deals and insight on the continued growth of the region’s hospitality and tourism sectors. The region’s flagship hospitality investment platform will feature three days of dealmaking and impactful industry discussions under the theme ‘Focus on Investment’.

Chris Newman has over 35 years of global hospitality experience, overseeing hotel strategies, introducing pioneering concepts, and developing high-performance teams. He aims to place NEOM at the forefront of the hospitality revolution. The following is an exclusive interview with Chris that Economy Middle East held recently.

Could you provide an overview of NEOM’s vision and objectives in the realm of hotel development and hospitality?

Our vision is to establish ourselves as pioneers of a new future of hospitality. Free from legacy infrastructure, we have a blank canvas to work from. It is an incredible position to be in – we have an opportunity to fully harness advances in technology and consider concepts that may not be possible in other environments, allowing us to develop properties that push the boundaries of design and innovation, while our service philosophy will be carefully tailored to match individual tastes and preferences. Our aim is to be a global leader and catalyst for change in a new era for our industry, while firmly contributing to both NEOM and the Kingdom’s ambitions.

Read: Construction progress for NEOM city projects in 2023

NEOM aims to be a model for sustainable development. How is this sustainability ethos integrated into the design and operation of the hotels in NEOM?

Powered by 100% renewable energy and working in harmony with nature, our properties will respect the principles of environmental responsibility, with sustainable and regenerative practices guiding how we both build and operate the hotel ecosystem. With 95% of the land protected for nature, NEOM offers incredible biodiversity and unique nature-based experiences. We are at a critical moment in time as the world faces up to the challenges of climate change and we have a unique opportunity to redesign how we think about contributing to this global goal. We put this responsibility at the forefront of our daily decision-making as we work towards realizing NEOM’s sustainability targets.

NEOM hotel

Could you share insights into the strategies you employ to attract both domestic and international travelers?

Our ties with leading hotel partners are set to play a crucial role in helping us attract travelers from the world over. In Trojena, for example, we are working with Ennismore to bring 25-hour Hotels and Morgans Originals, two iconic lifestyle brands rooted in creativity and design-focused spaces that will be set against a backdrop of spectacular mountain views. Trojena, host of the 2029 Asian Winter Games, is set to become a global landmark for Saudi Arabia and hotel guests will also have access to year-round outdoor skiing and a range of adventure sports.

The resort on Sindalah Island will feature accommodation options that will take luxury to another level. With Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, for instance, the accommodation options will extend to villas, with private yacht docks, swimming pools, and gyms. At Oxagon, NEOM’s industrial city of the future, NEOM Hotel Development – in partnership with brands including Kerten Hospitality, IHG Hotels & Resorts – will also tailor hospitality for a community hosting some of the world’s most forward-thinking innovators and visionary entrepreneurs.

Additionally, with a focus on experiential-led concepts, NEOM Hotel Development is proud to contribute to properties built around unique, groundbreaking, and diverse thinking and seamless services carefully tailored to guest profiles. These are just a few examples of how we are working to transform the way we approach architecture, technology, and design and ultimately create unforgettable experiences for visitors.

Collaboration is a key driver in NEOM’s development. How do you foster partnerships with international hotel chains and local stakeholders to achieve your goals?

NEOM Hotel Development is working with ambitious partners that harness the expertise of global brands and the fresh thinking of emerging players. Each not only offers something different but are also focused on doing things differently. We look for brands that share our vision for ushering in a new era of hospitality by redefining how we travel, stay and live. This requires partners who can bring fresh, creative, and bold thinking to the table and those who won’t shy away from challenging the status quo.

Can you elaborate on the potential economic impact of NEOM Hotel Development on the local community and the broader region?

We are building a team where talent from the Kingdom has the opportunity to change the future of hotels together. We want to make hospitality a career path that is rewarding and brims with opportunities for young Saudis. Maintaining a deep connection to our Saudi roots will be fundamental to our success and we are focused on building a workforce driven by a strong, ambitious contingent of young nationals to help us achieve this.

We have made progress by partnering with local and international institutions to sponsor students on vocational programs, placing them at the forefront of advances in the sector. Furthermore, there is a fantastic program at NEOM that enables the next generation of leaders. The Graduates Opportunities in Work (GrOW) program is helping to accelerate careers at scale, and, at NEOM Hotel Development, we have a growing number of graduates gaining first-class training, advanced mentorships, and growth opportunities that are just not found anywhere else.

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