Mar. 25, 2019

John Pagano

Saudi Arabia

John Pagano

CEO, The Red Sea Development Company

“At completion, the project will directly employ around 35,000 people.”


John Pagano was appointed as 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. He 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. Before joining TRSDC, Pagano headed his own company, Old Fort Capital Investments Ltd, offering strategic advice and services to landowners, investors and developers, with a focus on large-scale real estate developments. He holds a bachelor in Engineering from the University of Toronto.

The Red Sea Project is among the Kingdom's current most ambitious megaprojects. What is your grand vision here, and how do you expect it will change Saudi Arabia as we know it today?

Our grand vision for The Red Sea Project is one that is underpinned by sustainability. We are working towards 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 work towards our goal of net-positive impact on the environment. The destination will be powered 100 percent by renewable energy and 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 Saudi Arabia 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 per year to the Kingdom's GDP. The Red Sea Project will play a vital part of the Kingdom's economic diversification and lead the way in incorporating sustainable principles into business and development.

The project is set to include 40-50 hotels. What opportunities for the global hospitality industry are there to get involved?

The Red Sea Project offers many opportunities for investment, including from hospitality, retail, leisure and entertainment companies as well as from companies interested in working on the base infrastructure that will support the project—the utilities networks, the dedicated airport that will serve the destination and others. We are seeking to work with like-minded partners who share our uncompromising approach to delivering a sustainable luxury tourism development.

The project is set to create 70,000 jobs while creating new opportunities for the local economy—including for the SME community individual entrepreneurs. How do you envision to facilitate this growth?

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're committed to working towards educating and encouraging Saudi citizens 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, with executive authorities for sports entertainment looking after new infrastructure and activities in their respective fields. How do you synergize within this ecosystem that strives to develop the Kingdom's leisure industry?

The Red Sea Project is fully aligned with the wider Vision 2030 plan, supporting with 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 relevant government ministries to ensure that we realize our ambitions as effectively and efficiently as possible.

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

Now that the Master Plan has been completed, we are beginning the first phase of the project, which is scheduled for completion in 2022 and includes 14 luxury and hyper-luxury hotels. Phase One 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 a sustainable development. This means seeking out the most sustainable options across all different stages and creating new alternatives where none exist currently. To achieve all of this, we are engaging partners across the development and construction industries who share our commitment to sustainability and are like-minded in their approach.