John Pagano, chief executive of the Red Sea Development Company, has argued tourism has a vital part to play in the future of Saudi Arabia.
With plans to welcome 100 million guests annually by 2030 on track, and the country opening to foreign investment in hospitality, he said the sector would be vital in diversifying away from oil.
Speaking at the Future Hospitality Summit in Riyadh this morning, Pagano said: “The Red Sea Development is one of the most ambitious tourism projects anywhere in the world today.
“Saudi is seeking to diversify its economy away from oil, and tourism will be a big part of that.
“Tourism in Saudi Arabia is under-represented currently – whereas it accounts for ten per cent of global GDP, it is only 3.4 per cent here in the kingdom.”
The Red Sea Development Company is a closed joint-stock company wholly owned by the Public Investment Fund (PIF) of Saudi Arabia.
The company was established to drive the development of the Red Sea Project, a luxury tourism destination that will set new standards in sustainable development and position Saudi Arabia on the global tourism map.
The project will be developed over 28,000 square kilometres of pristine land on the west coast of the country and includes a vast archipelago of more than 90 islands.
The destination also features mountain canyons, dormant volcanoes and ancient cultural and heritage sites.
The destination will include hotels, residential properties, leisure, commercial and entertainment amenities, as well as supporting infrastructure that emphasises renewable energy and water conservation and re-use.
Activity for the first phase of development, which focuses on enabling the infrastructure to support future work, is well underway.
A marine infrastructure contract awarded in 2019 includes the construction of a 3.3 kilometres crossing to Shurayrah (the main hub) and development has begun at the coastal village, which will be home to around 14,000 people who will work at the destination.
Pagano added: “Covid-19 has presented some challenges for us – but through the hard work our team and the support of our stakeholders we remain on track.
“We hope to welcome our first guests by the end of 2022.
“Post-Covid-19, tourism is going to be greener, smarter and less crowed – we believe the world is demanding something different.
“We have set ourselves an ambition to put sustainability at the heart of everything we do.”
Future Hospitality Summit is a hybrid virtual conference developed to explore big ideas and tackle the challenges facing the hospitality industry, and will take place in Riyadh over the next two days.
The event, which promises to be one of the most impactful gatherings of the hospitality community, will be delivered on a cutting-edge event platform from Bench Digital.
It will provide an immersive live experience, including a virtual exhibition, one-to-one video networking and integrated chat features to all participants.
Future Hospitality Summit is organised by ministry of tourism Saudi Arabia and G20 Saudi Secretariat as part of the International Conferences Program, honouring the G20 Saudi presidency 2020.
Find out more on the official website.