RIYADH: In order to achieve the Saudi government’s goal of attracting 100 million visitors to the Kingdom by 2030, “we need over 1 million people to enter the tourism workforce,” said John Pagano, CEO of the Red Sea Development Co.
Today that “doesn’t exist,” added Pagano, who was speaking at the Misk Global Forum in Riyadh on Wednesday. There is huge potential in Saudi Arabia to expand beyond religious tourism, he said. The Red Sea Project, a luxury tourism development in the Kingdom, will create 70,000 new jobs, he added.
Pagano said the Red Sea Development Co. has launched scholarships abroad to study international hospitality management.
“Within four days, we had 12,700 applicants enthusiastic to pursue careers in hospitality,” he added. “The future is golden for the youth of Saudi Arabia if you want to pursue a career in tourism.”
At 28,000 sq. km, the Red Sea Project is “the size of Belgium,” Pagano said. He cautioned, however, that the environment should be respected. “The environment is our most valuable asset. If we damage that, we damage everything,” he said.
At the same session, Jerry Inzerillo, CEO of the Diriyah Gate Development Authority, said 55,000 jobs will be created by 2030 in developing the historical town of Diriyah. “We’ve been given the resources to develop on every level,” he added.
Gerard Mertrallet, the French president’s special envoy for AlUla, said there are “lots of opportunities for young people” in the tourism sector. The governorate of AlUla contains Saudi Arabia’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Mertrallet said people from AlUla are being trained in culinary schools in France so as to become chefs. Tourism “has to be inclusive” and “respect the landscape,” he added.