Five years into Saudi Vision 2030: Long-term plan means we are well placed for future of travel

Five years into Saudi Vision 2030: Long-term plan means we are well placed for future of travel

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The world feels very different today than it did five years ago. Yet, while fleets of planes have been grounded, the desire to travel and experience new cultures has not abated.

Tourism has been a central pillar of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 program since it was first laid out on this day in 2016.

Despite the uncertainty over the last year, the power of long-term planning means that the Kingdom’s tourism industry is ideally positioned to not only reap the rewards of a rebounding travel market, but to deliver the kind of sustainable tourism the world is now demanding.

The power of long-term planning

Vision 2030 set the framework for a diversified economy with three main themes: A vibrant society, thriving economy, and an ambitious nation. Another key tenet of that vision is sustainability, both environmentally and socioeconomically.

The Red Sea Project and AMAALA are at the forefront of the nation’s plan for the future. And similar to Vision 2030 itself, we have set our sights on long-term goals and ambitions.

Establishing a new luxury tourism industry in the nation requires a careful and considered approach and the journey we have embarked upon will tackle complex issues and seek greater value for the environment and the nation.

This long-term approach has emboldened us to lead the global transition toward regenerative tourism.

We say that sustainability is not good enough. We need to go beyond sustainability, to not only protect the natural assets and prevent them from harm, but to give back to the environment and enhance habitats, wildlife, and surrounding communities.

Making the right choices

During early planning stages at The Red Sea Project, we identified the ecological ceiling for how many guests our destination can safely accommodate and have elected to implement a cap of 1 million guests each year. This is not the most profitable approach, but it is the right choice.

Likewise, we made the decision early on to leave 75 percent of the destination’s 90-plus islands untouched. This includes one island that would have made the perfect holiday resort location. But, when our assessment revealed it was a favorite nesting ground for the endangered Hawksbill turtle, for us there was no question that it had to be protected. In total, less than 1 percent of the entire area will be developed.

These are not routes to short-term success. However, I wholeheartedly believe that they are the most financially prudent decisions, as well as the right ones.

The world is changing and travelers care about their impact on the world. By creating a world-leading destination that allows people to satisfy their thirst for travel, while also allowing them to have a positive impact, we offer a tantalizing proposition – and only by having a long-term view can these decisions be taken.

Our long-term view is underpinned by a commitment to delivering a 30 percent net conservation benefit by 2040.

People and planet

Regeneration is not just for the planet, but for our people too. To ensure we build these unique destinations to the highest standards and deliver on our sustainability commitments, it is vital we bring in the best talent, both from within Saudi Arabia and further afield.

However, this is coupled with a long-term view of enabling knowledge transfer within the nation. We are focused on training and developing local talent.

The Red Sea Project and AMAALA will contribute circa SR35 billion ($9.33 billion) to the Kingdom’s gross domestic product (GDP) once fully operational, and will be a significant creator of jobs, employing around 60,000 people directly and creating a further 60,000 induced and indirect jobs.

Bringing opportunities to local businesses and providing opportunities for the Saudi people is a top priority for us. At The Red Sea Development Co. (TRSDC), over 50 percent of our employees are Saudi which is more than double the average of most companies in the Kingdom. In addition, more than 70 percent of the value of all contracts at The Red Sea Project have been to Saudi companies.

For AMAALA, we have awarded more than 180 contracts to date worth just over SR3 billion, with 75 percent of the total combined value of contracts awarded to Saudi companies.

Our progress is more than just numbers and statistics, though. Our mission is to become a world-leading tourist destination that delivers growth for the Saudi economy and for the Saudi people, while also instilling pride in the Kingdom.

Creating new jobs and developing new skills allows us to contribute to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s economic growth and development. That is why we are committed to ensuring skills are transferred to the local market and that it is enabled to take on future projects.

Looking to the future

When I first visited the Red Sea coast, I was truly blown away by its beauty. I was also struck by the ambition for the two destinations. They are rich in culture and tradition and will allow visitors to explore the history of the region and experience Saudi Arabia’s fabled hospitality first-hand.

In five years, we have made huge progress and there is much to be proud of. Now, as we look to a post-pandemic future, we also have a lot to be incredibly excited about.

Between The Red Sea Project and AMAALA, we are helping to deliver Vision 2030 and Saudi Arabia’s sustainable future. We are delivering job creation, economic optimism, and a greener way to live, work, and relax. To me, that is a vision worth making a reality.

• John Pagano is CEO of The Red Sea Development Co. and AMAALA

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Arab News' point-of-view