The Business Year

John Pagano

SAUDI ARABIA - Telecoms & IT

Sea More

CEO, The Red Sea Development Company


John Pagano was appointed CEO in January 2018 and is responsible for leading the Red Sea Project’s development from the ground up to create a unique luxury and environmentally sustainable international tourism destination. Pagano brings more than 35 years of international experience in delivering large-scale development projects, previously serving as President of Baha Mar Development Company Ltd. (BDMC) based in Nassau in the Bahamas. He then spent over 23 years at the world-renowned Canary Wharf development in London, holding several leading executive positions. He holds a bachelor’s degree in engineering from the University of Toronto.

New developments along the Red Sea are at the center of Vision 2030. The Red Sea Development Company is at the forefront of efforts to remake the region, creating jobs and spurring growth.

The Red Sea Project is among the Kingdom’s most ambitious mega projects. What is your grand vision here, and how do you expect it will change Saudi Arabia?

Our grand vision for the Red Sea Project is one that is underpinned by sustainability. We are working toward a new era in sustainable luxury tourism, where every element of the development considers sustainability first and foremost. We are committed to managing visitor numbers to protect the site from over tourism and to work toward our goal of having a net-positive impact on the environment. The destination will be powered entirely by renewable energy. We plan to implement policies requiring zero waste to landfill and a total ban on single-use plastics. We are also seeking to develop new technologies and solutions to continually improve our environmental footprint. The Red Sea Project will position the Kingdom on the global tourism map and help it meet its Vision 2030 objectives. As a development, we are ideally positioned to tap into the global luxury tourism market, the fastest growing segment of the international travel and tourism industry. This presents us with the opportunity to open new areas of economic activity, and we estimate that the project is expected to contribute SAR22 billion (USD5.86 billion) per year to GDP. The project will play a vital part in economic diversification and lead the way in incorporating sustainable principles into business and development.

The project is set to create 70,000 jobs while creating new opportunities for the local economy—including for the SME community and individual entrepreneurs. How will this happen?

At completion, the project will directly employ around 35,000 people and will support an equivalent number of jobs in the wider community by creating opportunities for local businesses, entrepreneurs, and supporting industries. As an employer, our primary mandate is to create opportunities for Saudis, and we will be investing significantly in training, education, and development programs to foster the skills and capabilities that we need from within the Kingdom. We are working on developing various training programs to roll out in the coming years to help Saudis with an interest in the hospitality and tourism industries acquire the skills they need to build successful careers. We are committed to working toward educating and encouraging Saudis across disciplines and industries so that we can not only facilitate growth within the company, but also within society as a whole.

The Quality of Life program seeks to enhance the standard of living in the Kingdom. How do you work within this ecosystem that strives to develop the leisure industry?

The Red Sea Project is fully aligned with the wider Vision 2030 plan, supporting the creation of jobs and opportunities for Saudis—both direct and indirect—as a consequence of opening up the international tourism market. We are creating new opportunities for people to build promising careers and realize their personal ambitions. This is a collaborative effort in which we work closely with all the relevant government ministries to ensure that we realize our ambitions as effectively and efficiently as possible.

What primary ambitions have you set for the first phase of the project?

Now that the master plan has been completed, we are beginning the first phase of the project. This phase is scheduled for completion in 2022 and includes 14 luxury and hyper-luxury hotels. Phase I will provide more than 3,000 rooms across five islands and two inland resorts, as well as the development of necessary infrastructure and supporting logistics, including the new airport planned to enhance access to the destination. The Red Sea Project is a unique opportunity, and it’s one we want to approach in the right way. First and foremost, we are focused on building in a sustainable way.



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