Power Letters 2022: John Pagano, CEO, The Red Sea Development Company and Amaala
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Power Letters 2022: John Pagano, CEO, The Red Sea Development Company and Amaala

Power Letters 2022: John Pagano, CEO, The Red Sea Development Company and Amaala

Our approach not only defines success based on economic value, but applies a regenerative lens to go beyond simply protecting the ecosystems

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The world over, we are witnessing tourism gather pace in its recovery. A renewed sense of optimism is driving economic resilience and agility, while travel aspirations remain unabated. As I reflect on the tumultuous period of the past two years, I see no better time than now for us to galvanise action towards effectively balancing the needs of the people, planet, and prosperity. Industry recovery must stay grounded in sustainability if we are to build back better.

In 2021, world leaders were laser-focused on tackling sustainability. I was honoured to speak at global forums like SKIFT, World Travel Market, the Saudi Green Initiative and the Future Investment Initiative and witness first-hand how closer industry collaboration is shaping a new frontier for tourism development. In a milestone year for Saudi Arabia, we saw climate action prioritised, with the kingdom’s pledge towards net zero carbon emissions by 2060 setting a precedent like no other. For us at The Red Sea Development Company (TRSDC), it represents renewed confidence in our approach to deliver large-scale sustainability.

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 that surround us, to actively enhance it. We are committed to achieving a net positive conservation benefit of 30 per cent by 2040 by enhancing key habitats of coral, mangroves and seagrasses to allow biodiversity to flourish and to provide safe havens for rare species such as green and hawksbill turtles, sooty falcons and more.

This also means committing to carbon neutrality once fully operational and we’re well on the road to success with the delivery of our utilities infrastructure. This approach will enable us to operate off-grid and powered solely by solar energy, saving upwards of one million tonnes of CO2 emissions between The Red Sea Project and AMAALA. What I’m most excited about is the blueprint that these commitments help establish for the tourism and hospitality industry in 2022 and beyond, both here in Saudi Arabia and further afield; a way forward that is revitalised with responsibility, resilience, dynamism, and agility.

Industry trends reveal that environmentally conscious and responsible leadership continues to drive consumer preference, with 83 per cent of respondents surveyed by the World Travel & Tourism Council and Trip.com Group identifying sustainability as their top travel priority. Our sophisticated regeneration strategies will ensure visitors witness one of the last undiscovered places on the planet.

Our ambitious goals have already received global acclaim by renowned organisations and by the time guests arrive, we will have also piloted innovative technologies – for example, offering bottled water made from sunlight and air with Source; turning sunlight into seafood with Blue Planet Ecosystems; and partnering with Red Sea Farms for a sustainable food supply chain using sunlight and saltwater. We are conscious that we don’t yet have all the answers but working with such partners is helping us find the solutions to some of the world’s most critical challenges.

Social impact is another crucial element that is bound to yield dividends, as travellers become acutely aware of their impact on the communities they visit. According to American Express, 59 per cent of global tourists want to participate in philanthropic holidays – or “philantourism” – to experience local culture and boost surrounding economies. Aligned with this interest, we have given great thought to how we can promote wellbeing, prosperity and long-term value for our people, partners, and communities. Not only are we actively shaping diverse professional development opportunities for our employees through dedicated training programmes across vocational and digital education, but we are also developing socioeconomic opportunities across local communities such as advancements in agriculture through a partnership with social investment company Ethmar and private foundation Ghoroos.

We are also witnessing an unprecedented increase of technology in the travel lifecycle. Our uniquely personalised experiences and 52 smart services will enable us to stay ahead of consumers’ diversified needs, while enhancing guest experiences in inspiring new ways. In parallel, our smart and sustainable mobility strategy will augment community connectivity with electric vehicles that utilise clean technologies.

Understanding these emerging trends is imperative for us to adapt and pivot towards a greener, more equitable future – particularly as we gear up 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 world-leading luxury hospitality to our destination, while full development of the first phase is on track for completion by the end of 2023.

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