Neom in the spotlight with Peter Fitzhardinge

Neom in the spotlight with Peter Fitzhardinge

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Built around cognitive cities, NEOM is unlike anything the world has ever seen. We find out what’s planned, with Peter Fitzhardinge, NEOM’s acting head of tourism.

Many people may not know that a great deal of thought went into naming NEOM. The first three letters derive from the ancient Greek prefix neo, meaning “new,” while the letter M is a nod to the Arabic word for “future.” How is this attention to detail reflected in the overall project?
There is nothing random when it comes to NEOM. It is a very well thought- through vision and project. It’s strategically based, coming at a time when the world is in need of new ideas and concepts.
NEOM is a “living lab,” challenging us to go beyond what we know. We are actively encouraged to push the boundaries but always with purpose and with a goal in mind. This strategically robust diligence and collaboration breeds confidence to deliver world changing ideas, and that is what lies at the heart of NEOM. I see NEOM as a gift to the world, and having a role in this “new future” is very rewarding indeed.

NEOM positions itself as a region that will be home to hyperconnected, cognitive cities. What are the major differences between a smart city and a cognitive one?
NEOM will be home to THE LINE, a cognitive linear city; Oxagon, an advanced manufacturing hub and port; Trojena, a year-round mountain tourism destination; and Sindalah, our newly announced luxury island destination.
THE LINE will be a cognitive city within NEOM. Whereas a smart city typically uses around 5 percent of the data it gathers to control, manage and optimize infrastructure, and does so reactively, THE LINE, by contrast, will use and analyse around 90 percent of data and will be predictive as opposed to reactive. Cognitive cities are able to adapt to accommodate citizens as a result of their intelligent, connected systems. NEOM’s cognitive urban environments, including THE LINE, will learn and grow by interacting with their citizens through information and communication technologies, adapting their behavior based on past experiences.

How significant is tourism in the vision of NEOM?
Tourism plays a major role in NEOM, as it does in Saudi Arabia as a whole. Besides being a top contributor to NEOM’s GDP, the hospitality aspect of the project will provide plenty of jobs and great opportunities for Saudis and industry professionals around the world.
NEOM is a spectacular and diverse land. It is truly the best of all worlds: untouched coastlines, snow-capped mountains, vast red deserts and a heritage story waiting to be told. In addition, 95 percent of NEOM’s 26,500 square kilometers will be protected as a nature reserve.
Explorers are looking to discover new destinations, and NEOM is perfectively positioned to ignite the adventure seeker in us. This is coming at a time when world travelers are emerging from Covid-19 and seeking more authentic, lesser-known lands farther afield. They want to be the first, and we will have the experiences to match.

Being at the helm of such a groundbreaking project, what are the major obstacles you face and how are you able to overcome them?
NEOM is a blank canvas. This means we have little holding us back. We don’t have to reconfigure an existing city footprint; we can just start from scratch.
As with all of our projects, our unwavering commitment to the environment and nature sometimes means that we must think differently. At NEOM, we are often already doing what others are not even thinking about yet. My nature and environment colleagues are front and center in every conversation. We see this commitment to nature as an incentive to push harder and find new ways to help the world and design a better future where humans can find a more sustainable balance. It’s why we are all here.

Can you share any new developments about NEOM?
We are delighted to add Sindalah to NEOM’s tourism offering. Our luxury island development, at the heart of the Red Sea, is expected to start welcoming guests from early 2024.
NEOM is a constantly evolving project.
I am sure that 2023 will be full of more exciting news, so stay tuned.

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About author

Rita Ghantous

Rita Ghantous is a hospitality aficionado and a passionate writer with over 9 years’ experience in journalism and 5 years experience in the hospitality sector. Her passion for the performance arts and writing, started early. At 10 years old she was praised for her solo performance of the Beatles song “All My Love” accompanied by a guitarist, and was approached by a French talent scout during her school play. However, her love for writing was stronger. Fresh out of school, she became a freelance journalist for Noun Magazine and was awarded the Silver Award Cup for Outstanding Poetry, by The International Library of Poetry (Washington DC). She studied Business Management and earned a Masters degree from Saint Joseph University (USJ), her thesis was published in the Proche-Orient, Études en Management book. She then pursued a career in the hospitality industry but didn’t give up writing, that is why she launched the Four Points by Sheraton Le Verdun Newsletter. Her love for the industry and journalism led her to Hospitality Services - the organizers of the HORECA trade show in Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Jordan, as well as Salon Du Chocolat, Beirut Cooking Festival, Whisky Live and other regional shows. She is currently the Publications Executive of Hospitality News Middle East, Taste & Flavors and Lebanon Traveler. It is with ultimate devotion for her magazines that she demonstrates her hospitality savoir-faire.

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