How TRSDC Is Setting New Standards in Regenerative Tourism
By John Pagano, CEO at The Red Sea Development Company
The Red Sea Project is strategically positioned on the Red Sea coast, in an unspoiled area of extraordinary natural beauty and diversity. This puts us in a position of great responsibility. Some developers might see this as a blank canvas, for us however it is about much more. We want to go beyond simply preserving and protecting the natural landscape and actually work to enhance it through our presence. Our uncompromising commitment to sustainability and sustainable development is ingrained in everything we do, with a focus on going beyond sustainable to deliver regenerative tourism.
This is an exciting time to be involved in tourism in Saudi Arabia. Vision 2030 identified tourism as a strategic growth industry for the nation and as a result, significant emphasis is being placed on developing the sector. Tourism is forecast to contribute up to 10% towards Saudi Arabia’s GDP by 2030, compared to just 3% today and an estimated 70,000 direct and indirect employment opportunities will be created.
At The Red Sea Development Company, our ambition is to create a new future for tourism which will offer an abundance of opportunities for the people and businesses of Saudi Arabia, as well as for the pristine natural environment surrounding our destination. Working towards our opening year in 2022, we recognize that by committing time and effort to the detail of how we develop the destination and embrace the natural environment, will ensure it can be enjoyed by future generations to come.
Marine Spatial Planning
Before development started, we delivered the largest Marine Spatial Planning simulation ever undertaken. This ground-breaking exercise modelled the environmental impact of developing and operating The Red Sea Project in order to protect the almost 1,300 square kilometers of pristine lagoon - home to coral reefs, mangroves, and endangered marine species - where the destination will be located. This process has informed our ambition of not just avoiding harm to the environment, but actively working to enhance it. As a result of the exercise, we’re leaving 75% of our island archipelago untouched and committing to make a net positive conservation benefit of up to 30% by 2040. With projects like these and our overarching ethos of environmental enhancement, we are determined to set new standards in sustainable tourism and be the benchmark for the industry.
Modular and Prefabricated Technologies
Efforts to minimize the potential impact caused by construction have been further enhanced through collaboration with construction partners who specialise in modular and prefabricated building technologies. These units are created in the Kingdom and elsewhere and then are shipped to the Red Sea for assembly and installation, limiting any impact on the environment. Conforming with the highest international standards, we are ensuring that all our building work is set to reach LEED Platinum or Gold standard, and we are also investing in environmentally friendly innovations such as ‘green’ concrete to reduce our carbon footprint throughout construction.
As we progress our development works, we have activated a number of programs to help us track, and ultimately meet, our sustainability goals. One way we are doing this is by turning our attention to the inhabitants who made it to the site first: the Green and Hawksbill turtles. Our turtle tagging program maps the movement of these species and the findings will greatly inform how we develop the 28,000 square kilometer destination moving forward, ensuring that no harm is made to these endangered species.
Separately, as part of our mission to enhance the natural environment, we’re working with King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) on an ambitious program of coral gardening. Going beyond simple Reef Restoration, the program combines restoration, coral landscaping and visitor education, in order to make a positive and lasting impact on the local coral population.
Smart Destination Management System
Through taking an environmental enhancement approach, we are pioneering a new relationship between luxury tourism and the natural environment. But this is not just limited to planning and development. We are currently fine tuning a smart destination management system that will monitor the environmental impact of our operations, manage visitor movement to avoid over-tourism and provide guests with a seamless, personalized experience.
Looking to the future and beyond the opening, we have committed to becoming 100 percent carbon neutral and powered by 100 percent renewable energy 24 hours a day via solar and wind power. It is why we have committed to zero waste to landfill and are pursuing a total ban on single-use plastics across the destination. Our ambitious plans have led to alignment with global best practice, in the shape of all the United Nations’ 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs).
By thinking about how we can do things differently, we hope that the knowledge we gain and the lessons we learn along the way can be shared with the rest of the world. Part of our vision is to set a high standard for other locations in enhancing and supporting the conservation of the environment all while creating a unique destination which people can enjoy for years to come.
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