Welcome to the holiday edition of Sustainability in the Air, the world’s #1 podcast on sustainable aviation hosted by SimpliFlying CEO Shashank Nigam. Over the past couple of weeks, we have brought to you some of the finest conversations from our archives with added context on the latest updates from the companies featured.
Following up our first holiday special with Scott Kirby, the CEO of United Airlines and second with Amelia DeLuca, Delta’s Chief Sustainability Officer, we bring to you our third and final holiday special: an insightful conversation with John Pagano, CEO of Red Sea Global.
Funded by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, Red Sea Global is spearheading a new model of eco-tourism on the west coast of Saudia Arabia with a self-imposed ecological ceiling. Their portfolio includes two regenerative tourism destinations – the Red Sea and Amaala – both built to not only protect the natural environment but also to enhance it for future generations to come.
Since our episode with Red Sea Global – recorded about a year ago – they’ve made a number of major announcements that are worth noting.
Here are the key highlights of the conversation:
RSG’s sustainability achievements and investments in 2023 (0:45)
The need for sustainable tourist destinations (3:30)
Going 100% renewable 24 hours a day (9:00)
About batteries and energy storage (17:00)
The importance of blue carbon and natural capital (21:15)
The hydrogen debate: technology vs infrastructure (29:20)
Setting an ecological ceiling to preserve the environment (33:50)
Why transparency is the key to setting and achieving goals (36:30)
Rapid Fire! (45:20)
Keep reading for a quick overview of the episode.
1. Recent Developments
Red Sea Global (RSG) has launched its ‘Coral Commitment’ to protect and regenerate corals in the Red Sea. They celebrated a milestone for The Red Sea project with a new flight service from Riyadh to Red Sea International Airport, enhancing accessibility. RSG has also developed a massive nursery, growing 5 million plants and aiming for 30 million, and formed an alliance with EDF and Masdar for a solar-powered infrastructure facility. Additionally, RSG has introduced the Kingdom’s first fleet of commercial electric vehicles, expanding its sustainable transportation initiatives.
2. Betting on solar power
Red Sea Global is redefining eco-tourism, moving beyond the traditional profit-driven model to a sustainable approach. They have disconnected from the grid, opting for 100% renewable energy, primarily solar, creating the world’s largest tourism destination powered entirely by renewables. CEO John Pagano emphasises the growing demand for sustainable travel and aims to demonstrate that customers will pay more for eco-friendly accommodations.
3. Why an ecological ceiling matters
RSG is consciously limiting tourist numbers to avoid environmental damage. The Red Sea Airport, serving the Jeddah resort, is designed for only a million passengers annually. Only 1% of their 28,000 square kilometre site will be developed, respecting the site’s ecological ceiling and ensuring minimal environmental impact.
4. Increasing the Net Conservation Value
RSG’s approach includes extensive marine spatial planning across its 90-island archipelago to enhance environmental conservation. They aim to increase the net conservation value of the destination by 30% over two decades, using real-time monitoring and AI to manage environmental impact.
5. A transparent, no-holds-barred approach
Pagano emphasises transparency in RSG’s sustainability efforts, with extensive baseline surveys and regular sustainability reports made public. This open approach aims to validate their environmental initiatives and demonstrate their commitment to responsible development. Pagano acknowledges the possibility of failure but remains committed to transparently addressing challenges and inspiring industry-wide action.
Thanks for listening to Sustainability in the Air! Subscribe for free to receive our updates straight in your inbox.
‘Sustainability in the Air’ is the world’s leading podcast dedicated to sustainable aviation. Through in-depth conversations with top aviation leaders, we break through the clutter and provide a clear roadmap for a net-zero future.