John Pagano, CEO, The Red Sea Development Company and Amaala
All over the world, we are witnessing an acceleration in tourism in its recovery. A renewed sense of optimism boosts economic resilience and agility, while travel aspirations remain unchanged. As I reflect on the tumultuous times of the past two years, I can’t think of a better time than now to galvanize action to effectively balance the needs of people, planet and prosperity. The recovery of the industry must remain anchored in sustainability if we are to rebuild better.
In 2021, world leaders focused on tackling sustainable development. I have been honored to speak at global forums such as SKIFT, World Travel Market, the Saudi Green Initiative and the Future Investment Initiative and see first-hand how closer collaboration with industry is shaping a new frontier for the tourism development. In a pivotal year for Saudi Arabia, climate action was prioritized, with the kingdom’s commitment to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2060 setting a precedent like no other. For us at The Red Sea Development Company (TRSDC), this represents a renewed confidence in our approach to ensuring sustainability at scale.
Our approach not only defines success based on economic value, but applies a regenerative lens to go beyond simply protecting the ecosystems, communities and biodiversity around us, and actively improving it. We commit to achieve a 30% positive net conservation benefit by 2040 by improving key coral, mangrove and seagrass habitats to enable biodiversity to flourish and provide safe havens for species rare such as green and hawksbill turtles, sooty hawks and more.
It also means committing to carbon neutrality once fully operational and we are on track to be successful with the delivery of our utility infrastructure. This approach will allow us to operate off-grid and powered solely by solar energy, thus saving over one million tonnes of CO2 emissions between the Red Sea project and AMAALA. What excites me most is the plan these commitments help establish for the tourism and hospitality industry in 2022 and beyond, both here in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere; a way forward energized by responsibility, resilience, dynamism and agility.
Industry trends reveal that environmentally responsible and responsible leadership continues to drive consumer preference, with 83% of those polled by the World Travel & Tourism Council and Trip.com Group identifying sustainability as their top priority when it comes to travel. Our sophisticated regeneration strategies will ensure visitors one of the last undiscovered places on the planet.
Our ambitious goals have already been acclaimed around the world by renowned organizations and by the time the guests arrive we will also have piloted innovative technologies – for example, offering bottled water made from sun and air. with Source; transform sunlight into seafood with Blue Planet Ecosystems; and partnering with Red Sea Farms for a sustainable food supply chain using sunlight and salt water. We realize that we do not yet have all the answers, but working with such partners helps us find solutions to some of the world’s most critical challenges.
Social impact is another crucial element that is sure to pay dividends as travelers become fully aware of their impact on the communities they visit. According to American Express, 59% of global tourists want to take philanthropic vacations – or “philantourism” – to experience local culture and boost surrounding economies. In keeping with this interest, we have thought long and hard about how we can promote well-being, prosperity and long-term value for our employees, partners and communities. Not only do we actively create various professional development opportunities for our employees through training programs dedicated to professional and digital education, but we also develop socio-economic opportunities in local communities such as advancements in agriculture through to a partnership with the social investment company Ethmar and the private Ghoroos foundation. .
We are also seeing an unprecedented increase in technology in the travel lifecycle. Our unique personalized experiences and 52 smart services will keep us one step ahead of diverse consumer needs, while improving customer experiences in inspiring ways. At the same time, our smart and sustainable mobility strategy will increase community connectivity with electric vehicles using clean technologies.
Understanding these emerging trends is imperative in order to adapt and pivot towards a greener and fairer future, especially as we prepare to welcome our first guests by the end of this year, when the first hotels open. Nine hotel management agreements have already been signed to bring premier luxury hospitality to our destination, while full development of the first phase is nearing completion by the end of 2023.