The Red Sea Project: Building for eternity
When I first visited the Kingdom five years ago, I was completely bowled over by the natural assets and the physical beauty of the country.
The mountains, the beaches, the pristine marine life, the people, the preserved heritage sites, the sceneries and so on.
But truth be told I still found myself wondering — could anything be built there? Would people actually come? How would they get there?
Five years later, I couldn’t be more delighted to witness how the Kingdom's leadership and the management of the Red Sea Project had the ambition to chart a new course for the global tourism industry.
They also saw the project’s potential in creating value as the world’s first regenerative luxury tourism project.
Despite COVID-19 and many other challenges, what The Red Sea Development Company achieved in the last five years is proof that one can think unconventionally and use money catalytically to solve specific challenges for the betterment of tourism and the world.
The outside world knows TRSDC is building something, but I don’t think anyone fully appreciates what it is being built.
The progress in the construction and infrastructure work at the project site is amazing. What makes the project really sparkle though is how TRSDC operates in a way which combines high-level research with high-impact on-the-ground work, sparking disruptions while operating with purpose at its heart.
From sustainable farming to sustainable aviation, they have incubated new ventures with potential to benefit people and the planet.
From offsite modular construction to scientific efforts to grow corals, to new partnerships for power and infrastructure, they have mobilized capital to build the world’s first luxury tourism destination that will be fully powered by renewable energy.
And through every step of the way, TRSDC displayed commitment to engage, train and employ young Saudis from the local community.
Constructing with efficiency and in line with nature
In the big bad world of real estate where the norm is undercutting bids, unforeseen overruns on construction cost and not meeting deadlines, the Red Sea project is on schedule and due to open in the first quarter of 2023.
What fascinates me even more is how many partners and subcontractors are competing to be part of The Red Sea project — viewing it as a game-changing redefining project — as they value the ethics and transparency displayed by its management.
The luxury resorts being erected and the skylines being shaped are breathtaking. Not only are the buildings elegant, they are also regenerative with impeccable construction and precise detail.
TRSDC developers demonstrated how one can move with speed and purpose while assuring climate action and align to the UN Sustainable Development Goals. It is this approach to real estate that breaks new ground, making the project a shining example to aspire to.
Investing for profits and sustainability
We are increasingly seeing investors expressing an explicit interest in the “S” in the Environmental, social, and corporate governance — keen on investing in companies that make a positive contribution to society.
The “S” in ESG has been evolving tremendously in the recent past. People no longer believe that making money and doing good are mutually exclusive.
Companies therefore need a sense of “purpose” today more than ever before. They should have a meaning, a vision and clarity on why they exist. They should stand for something, and they should be willing to do it publicly.
Becoming part of the community
Aside from the fact that the resorts being built standout in the overflowing sea of the region’s construction market, the project’s team, its clients and the surrounding local communities consider being part of TRSDC a point of pride.
And this is the project’s real achievement — research shows that turnover is usually lower and employees are more productive when they feel aligned with a company’s values.
The staff housing is a great example of how TRSDC is making people feel a little prouder and more engaged. The units are in a prime beach-front location, have green areas, proper landscaping and are well lit.
This is a great example of a certain readiness to depart from conventional wisdom which separates between the alluring side for guests and the undesirable darker side assigned to the staff.
A revolution is taking root with TRSDC and the spark is now a flame. This is an exciting time to join the call for action to bring about a better and new future of tourism.
As the Chair of the Advisory Board, I am so excited for next year. I think we have a wonderful opportunity to not just aim for recovery or even fix the broken model in tourism, but to rebuild tourism from inside-out with its heart at the center.
I for one will be cheering and rooting for the project to drive systemic change in the world of tourism.
• Aradhana Khowala is a global authority on the luxury travel and tourism industries having worked across 75 countries. She is currently the chair of the global advisory board of The Red Sea Development Company.