Red Sea Global attracting lot of interest in India: John Pagano

Interview with John Pagano, CEO, Red Sea Global
/ New Delhi
John Pagano
Red Sea Global attracting lot of interest in India: John Pagano

Today, RSG is delivering upwards of a dozen different projects stretching the length of Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea coast including both the Red Sea and luxury wellness destination Amaala: John Pagano

Six years after it was launched, Red Sea Global, a massive luxury and sustainable tourism development in Saudi Arabia, has taken shape, with the first few of the 50 planned hotels opening for guests. John Pagano, CEO, Red Sea Global, tells India Outbound that the project, a pioneer in luxury and sustainable tourism, is attracting a lot of interest in India, which is one of its most important source markets.
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Where does the Red Sea Global project stand now?

Red Sea Global (RSG), was established in 2018 to drive the development of luxury tourism destination, the Red Sea. Today, RSG is delivering upwards of a dozen different projects stretching the length of Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea coast including both the Red Sea and luxury wellness destination Amaala.

We have entered an exciting phase, with our inaugural destination already operational and more hotels set to open their doors this year. We marked a significant milestone last year welcoming our first guests to two hotels, Six Senses Southern Dunes and St Regis Red Sea Resort. Red Sea International Airport (RSI) has been facilitating a regular schedule of flights since September 2023 from Riyadh and Jeddah. On completion, RSI will offer direct access to the global community. Concurrently, some of our subsidiary ventures, spanning sports and entertainment brands, have also started welcoming guests.

Spanning over 28,000 sqkm of undulating desert dunes, mountain canyons, an archipelago of 90 islands, dormant volcanoes and ancient heritage sites, the destination will feature 16 hotels, residential properties, an 18-hole championship golf course, entertainment, and leisure facilities within phase one. Each element is designed in harmony with nature and with regeneration at its core.

The Red Sea is on a mission to redefine luxury through sustainability. With plans to have 50 hotels and up to 1,000 residential properties by 2030, visitors can anticipate a fusion of opulence and eco-consciousness.

Red Sea Global

The growing connectivity will further impact the volume of guests choosing to stay on the Red Sea

What kind of response have you received from visitors?

To date, the response has been extremely positive, both from travellers within the Kingdom and further afield. As we continue to bring new resorts online, we see interest building in our varied offering. Our domestic flights have grown in number and our first international flights that commenced on April 18, connects Dubai with Red Sea International Airport directly. We expect the growing connectivity to further impact the volume of guests choosing to stay with us on the Red Sea.

We have also had a number of well-known guests in recent weeks, including Cristiano Ronaldo and his family, who enjoyed a luxury stay at St Regis.

How significant is the Indian market for you?

India is incredibly important to us, and we are so grateful for how the Indian people have shown an interest in our growth and development. There is a growing demand among affluent Indians for luxury travel experiences and we are pleased to offer unmatched opportunities for luxury, adventure, sports and relaxation experiences while placing regeneration and sustainability at the heart of everything we do. Given our close geographical proximity and the rising demand among Indian families for best-in-class experiences in previously unexplored parts of the world, we are aware of the unique position we hold. We are excited to welcome guests from India to our shores now and in the future.

We already have a presence in India, and we are proactively collaborating with our Indian partners and local experts to showcase our innovative destination and capture the interest of the Indian audience. We have received very positive feedback from our in-market activations, and we look forward to sharing more updates with our guests from India in due course. We have recently shared the latest news that the Four Seasons Resort will be coming to Amaala in 2025. This news has already sparked a huge amount of interest in India as the resort marks a new chapter for wellness tourism offering guests a renowned luxury experience, seamlessly integrated with nature and committed to the destination’s vision of people and planet first. With 220 keys consisting of rooms, suites and villas with breath-taking sea views, the Four Seasons is the pinnacle of luxury wellness tourism along Saudi Arabia’s north-western coast.

Will you customise the offer for the Indian market?

Our offerings at both the Red Sea and Amaala cater to a diverse range of segments in India and Asia, as well as globally, targetting individuals who seek unique and immersive travel experiences. We have curated a range of experiences for various demographics, including multi-generational families, solo travellers, couples, and friends seeking wellness, diving, adventure, cultural immersion, spa relaxation, golfing and beach retreats.

The destinations are set to draw inquisitive travellers who have a strong desire for authentic, sustainable and regenerative experiences, along with an eagerness to explore diverse cultures. We will also attract those who are in search of exceptional world-class experiences in extraordinary locations, whether it is scuba diving in one of the planet’s best-preserved coral reefs or indulging in a game of golf on an 18-hole course on an island in the Red Sea.

Red Sea Global

The Red Sea is on a mission to redefine luxury through sustainability

How is sustainability integrated in your destination? Is there a conflict between luxury and sustainability?

As a responsible developer, we realised early on that sustainability is no longer enough. That is why we decided to always aim beyond protection, to enhancement, to have a positive effect on the environment and local communities. We are developing two luxury destinations, which we believe are the most ambitious regenerative tourism destinations in the world today, the Red Sea and Amaala.

RSG has embraced this ethos of regenerative tourism from the very beginning. Before a shovel hit the ground, scientists catalogued and assessed the stunning biodiversity of the Saudi Arabian Red Sea coastline. Based on what they learned through a large-scale Marine Spatial Planning (MSP) exercise, we decided to develop just 22 of more than 90 islands and to leave the rest untouched. It is this MSP exercise that led us to set a target of achieving a 30 pc net conservation benefit to the area by 2040, a goal we also applied to Amaala.

We are showing others that it is possible to balance both luxury and sustainability and we hope to inspire them to join us in the transition to regenerative tourism.

How have you involved the local communities in your journey?

As a cornerstone of Saudi Vision 2030, Red Sea Global is playing its part in transforming the Kingdom’s economy and creating significant opportunities for its people. Combined, our two destinations will create around 120,000 jobs and contribute SAR 33 billion (USD 8.8 billion) annually to the Saudi economy.

We have launched several programmes to train talented young Saudis for jobs of the future, such as our Elite Graduate Programme (EGP), now in its fifth year, through which we have enrolled nearly 200 Elites so far. Through the EGP, we hire Saudi university graduates and provide on-the-job training, putting them to work alongside the best and brightest people in their respective fields.

We have also funded scholarships for 170 students pursuing the University of Prince Mugrin bachelor’s degree in international hospitality, a programme accredited by the prestigious Ecole Hôtelière de Lausanne in Switzerland. We run a separate programme with the University of Tabuk, teaching hospitality skills to 100 students. In addition, we are providing vocational training for 700 hospitality, airport, and technical services workers.

Our goal is to train 10,000 Saudis by 2030 to be hired by our operators, subsidiaries, or partners through our new facility situated in the heart of our local communities.

What is your vision in terms of connectivity through land, sea and air?

Our mobility vision is to provide comfortable, safe, and most importantly, clean transportation whether by land, sea or air. We have already launched the Kingdom’s first fleet of commercial electric vehicles, proudly fuelled by solar power. Our luxury electric fleet, featuring renowned models such as the MercedesBenz EQS and Lucid Air, provides a stylish and sustainable travel experience exclusively for guest transport. This initiative is key to our broader objective to achieve carbon neutrality.

Our ambitions don’t stop there. We are actively exploring hydrogen applications across land, sea and air, embracing electric vertical take-off and landing vehicles and advancing autonomous vehicle technologies as we continue to play our part in building a future where clean mobility becomes the norm.

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