Developments taking shape in Saudi Arabia are changing the face of the kingdom, and its economy. The most advanced of these is The Red Sea, a coastal region developed by real estate company Red Sea Global, that has already opened the doors of two hotels (Six Senses Southern Dunes and the St. Regis Red Sea), plus an international airport.
This is nothing new to the Middle East, which is famed for the scope, scale, and splendour of its tourism offerings – but The Red Sea is built on solid sustainability principles.
Those principles go beyond reducing impact – quite the opposite in fact. The Red Sea actively aims to have a net positive effect on the sea and landscape – reintroducing wildlife, planting millions of mangroves, and rebuilding coral reefs.
Dr. Omar Al-Attas, Head of Environmental Protection and Regeneration at Red Sea Global, took to the COP28 stage to share how the company is taking such a distinctive approach to translating conservation theory into practical action.
Speaking to Business Chief, Dr Al-Attas says Red Sea Global’s approach extends beyond environmental conservation to environmental regeneration, which also includes meaningful community participation.
“Balancing environmental goals with community needs and expectations represents a significant challenge, particularly in a region experiencing rapid development,” says Dr Al-Attas.
“In ensuring truly sustainable development initiatives, it is crucial that those in terrestrial ecosystems are not only environmentally sustainable but also socially inclusive cooperation. Working closely with local communities helps us understand and respect their traditional knowledge and practices, which are invaluable in shaping regenerative tourism strategies.
“We have found that a collaborative approach, where corporate strategies are harmoniously aligned with environmental stewardship and community wellbeing, lays the foundation for a sustainable and inclusive future.”
Middle East addressing historic dependence on oil
Much is made of the region’s oil-based economies and how that sits with sustainability efforts, but Dr Al-Attas says hosting COP28 in the Middle East “demonstrates the region’s active role in addressing global climate challenges, which is crucial given our historic dependence on oil”.
“Thanks to its pioneering projects and policies, the UAE serves as an ideal platform for these discussions,” he adds. “Sustainable development is possible and beneficial for economies traditionally reliant on non-renewable resources. It is an opportunity to showcase our significant strides in environmental protection, regeneration, and biodiversity enhancement.”
Dr Al-Attas says he hopes to see a global consensus on the importance of integrating environmental protection with regeneration in development projects as a result of COP28, which includes greater emphasis on marine and terrestrial conservation.
He points to innovative ideas and successful case studies, like Red Sea Global’s coral, turtle, bird, and mangrove conservation and regeneration efforts, setting a global example for sustainable progress.
“I am also pleased that the conference will highlight the importance of local community engagement in environmental initiatives, reflecting our approach in Saudi Arabia,’ he adds.
Dr Al-Attas is a passionate environmentalist with extensive experience in management and operations. His focus is to develop and lead collaboratively with the Group Chief Environmental Sustainability Officer the implementation of environmental and sustainable strategies, programs, and action plans to ensure a positive environmental sustainability for Red Sea Global.