FII: Saudi Arabia's Red Sea tourism project has its eye on hydrogen-fuelled seaplanes

Government-owned project developer TRSDC is also exploring more readily available options of carbon sequestering and SAF on flights serving the luxury island resort

The Red Sea Development Company’s masterplan covers a 28,000 square kilometre site containing 90 islands. Photo: The Red Sea Development Company
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The Red Sea Development Company, developer of the mega-tourism project on Saudi Arabia’s west coast, is exploring more sustainable ways for visitors to fly into the ultra-luxury destination, including using hydrogen-fuelled seaplanes to access its islands in the future, as part of conservation efforts, its chief executive said.

The company is also looking into more immediately available options for greener travel through carbon sequestration and use of sustainable aviation fuels on flights serving its international airport, which will run entirely on renewable energy, John Pagano said at the Future Investment Initiative in Riyadh on Wednesday.

Together, these measures are expected to save 500,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide that would otherwise by emitted each year, doubling to 1 million tons of carbon reductions when factoring in the adjacent mega-tourism project Amaala, said Mr Pagano, who is chief executive of both government-backed companies.

“We're not just a travel destination, but an incubator of ideas, a centre of learning,” he said.

The large-scale projects being developed by companies such as Amaala and TRSDC are part of the kingdom's efforts to diversify and cut its dependence on oil revenue. Development of non-oil sectors such as tourism are key planks of the kingdom's Vision 2030 economic transformation agenda.

As part of its regenerative tourism push, TRSDC and Amaala are targeting a 30 per cent net conservation benefit over the next two decades across the entire area of the projects, Mr Pagano said.

“What that means is that those beautiful mangroves and coral reefs will be more plentiful in years to come, enabling biodiversity to flourish,” Mr Pagano said.

The company is working with the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology to grow coral in a lab to be put back into the sea and is working on a tagging programme to boost the population of the critically-endangered hawksbill turtle.

“Sustainability is no longer a nice-to-have, it's an absolute necessity,” Mr Pagano told the forum.

In addition to its pledge to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2060, Saudi Arabia also plans to more than double its target of reducing annual carbon emissions to 278 million tonnes by 2030. This is up from a previous target of 130m tonnes.

The kingdom's pledge to reach net-zero emissions by 2060 covers its domestic emissions and does not extend to carbon dioxide released from use of its crude products across the world.

TRSDC project is expected to welcome its first guests by the end of 2022, when the international airport and first hotels are due to open.

The Middle East's travel and tourism sector is forecast to grow 27.1 per cent this year – slightly below the global average of 30.7 per cent – and 28 per cent in 2022, the World Travel and Tourism Council industry forum said in a report on Wednesday. This comes as borders re-open to international travellers as Covid-19 restrictions loosen.

Updated: October 28, 2021, 7:07 AM