RIYADH: Saudi Arabia is leading the world in efforts to promote sustainable tourism, former Mexico president Felipe Calderón insisted during a panel at the Saudi Green Initiative Forum heard.
Speaking at the event – taking place alongside the UN’s Climate Change Conference in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt – Calderón, who is now honorary chairman of Global Commission on the Economy and Climate, praised the Kingdom for its drive in this area.
Driven by its 2030 vision, Saudi Arabia has placed an emphasis on sustainable tourism, as well as protecting the environment, in projects such as its Red Sea development.
“What is attractive to me about this initiative is that Saudi Arabia is not just thinking about itself. I believe that sustainable tourism has taken the responsibility to lead the world,” he noted.
Calderón also talked up the importance of tourism in helping the economies of developing countries.
“Tourism is the most powerful generator of jobs in developing and poor countries,” said Calderón, adding: “The idea is not to stop tourism, we need tourism but in a sustainable way."
Ahmed Aqil Al Khateeb, the minister of tourism in Saudi Arabia, doubled down on the Kingdom’s commitment to making the sector environmentally friendly, telling the panel: “We have just announced yesterday the commissioning of 60 global experts from 30 different countries to work on and develop the baseline of sustainability in tourism.”
He adde: “The global tourism industry is contributing roughly 8 percent to the greenhouse emissions, and about 14 percent of the global solid waste. At the same time, this industry is expected to almost double by 2030.”
On a private sector account of sustainable tourism, John Pagano, the CEO of the Saudi based Red Sea Global, discussed the efforts taken by RSG towards sustainable and regenerative tourism.
RSG took a distinct approach to reach ambitious goals, where they “valued their natural capital as their most valuable asset,” declared Pagano.
“Right from the beginning, we started really understanding the place, the habitats, the ecosystem. Sustainability is no longer enough, we really do need to think about regeneration, and by that we mean making the place better.”
More than 2 million trees have been grown in the company’s landscape nursery, the first solar farms will soon be completed for phase one, 75 percent of their more than 90 islands are to be left untouched, and sustainable accountability is to be demanded from RSG’s personnel.
“We have forced everybody, all the hotel operators, all the major global hotel chains, to sign master cooperation agreements with us and make sure that they are held accountable to the high standards of the bars we have set in sustainability concern,” said Pagano.
“We all live under one sky, on one planet, breathing the same air and drinking the same water. Simply finding a better way for our own projects is not enough. We must export our learnings and the techniques we develop to the rest of the world to ensure a global solution to a shared crisis,” he added.