The Red Sea Development Company appoints two new members to its global Advisory Board


World-renowned experts in marketing, branding and customer experience to inform The Red Sea Project’s next phase ahead of opening

Piers Schmidt

Riyadh: The Red Sea Development Company (TRSDC), the developer behind the world’s most ambitious regenerative tourism project, has appointed two industry experts to its global Advisory Board. 

The new appointees, who have a combined experience of over 50 years in the hospitality and tourism sector, will play a pivotal role in directing The Red Sea Project towards welcoming its first guests at the end of 2022.

Frances-Anne Keeler (ex-Tourism Australia and VisitBritain) and Piers Schmidt (Founder of Luxury Branding) join the company’s existing international Advisory Board of eight world-leaders in business, investment, tourism, sustainability and conservation with immediate effect. ​

John Pagano, CEO of TRSDC said: “As we prepare to welcome our first visitors to the destination next year, our focus is turning towards how we share the treasures of The Red Sea Project. We are delighted to welcome the new Advisory Board members, whose experience will be instrumental in our preparation for launch.” 

Frances-Anne Keeler has over 25 years of experience across hospitality and tourism, business and events and education and financial services. Having previously served as Tourism Australia’s Deputy Chief Executive Officer and VisitBritain’s Executive Director of Europe, she has led international strategy, marketing and operations across multiple markets. Frances-Anne has used her industry knowledge to launch her own tourism strategy consulting firm. She chairs the boards of various tourism initiatives, including Australian Tourism Data Warehouse, the national platform for digital tourism information in the region and Chocolateria San Churro, a unique Spanish chocolate café experience with over 50 stores in Australia.

Piers Schmidt brings over 25 years of experience in advising luxury brands. In 2002, Piers founded Luxury Branding, an advisory boutique for leaders seeking to create the world’s most hospitable brands. His experience includes the branding and roll-out of One&Only Resorts, extending the Giorgio Armani brand into hospitality and codifying five trophy assets into the Dorchester Collection. Piers is also a visiting professor on the MBA program at Ecole hôtelière de Lausanne, a prestigious hospitality school in Switzerland. 

The two advisors will join the roster of regional and international experts* who currently advise the Board of Directors and Executive Management Team of TRSDC.

The Red Sea Project has already passed numerous significant milestones and work is on track to welcome the first guests when the international airport and the first hotels will open next year. All 16 hotels planned in Phase I will be opening by the end of 2023.  

Upon completion in 2030, The Red Sea Project will comprise 50 hotels, offering up to 8,000 hotel rooms and around 1,300 residential properties across 22 islands and six inland sites. The destination will also include a luxury marina, entertainment and leisure facilities.

About The Red Sea Development Company:

The Red Sea Development Company is a closed joint-stock company wholly owned by the Public Investment Fund (PIF) of Saudi Arabia. TRSDC was established to drive the development of The Red Sea Project, a luxury, regenerative tourism destination that will set new standards in sustainable development and position Saudi Arabia on the global tourism map.

The project is being developed over 28,000 km2 of pristine lands and waters along Saudi Arabia’s west coast and includes a vast archipelago of more than 90 pristine islands. The destination also features sweeping desert dunes, mountain canyons, dormant volcanoes, and ancient cultural and heritage sites. It is designed to include hotels, residential properties, leisure, commercial and entertainment amenities, as well as supporting infrastructure that emphasizes renewable energy and water conservation and re-use, as well as a circular waste management system to achieve zero waste to landfill.

Activity for the first phase of development is well underway and is on track to be completed by the end of 2023. The project has surpassed significant milestones, with over 500 contracts signed to date, worth over SAR 15 bn ($4bn).

The 100-hectare Landscape Nursery, which will provide more than 15 million plants for the destination, is now fully operational. There are more than 7,000 workers currently on-site and 80km of new roads are now complete, including the new airport road, to better connect the destination. The Construction Village, set to house 10,000 workers, is now open and development is progressing well at the Coastal Village, which will be home to around 14,000 people who will eventually work at the destination. 

*The members of The Red Sea Development Company Advisory Board are:

Philippe Cousteau Jr., Co-Founder and President, EarthEcho International – Cousteau Jr. is a multi Emmy-nominated TV host, author, speaker and social entrepreneur. He advises on best practices for social and environmental sustainable development and through his non-profit, EarthEcho International, prepares the next generation to solve the environmental challenges the world faces.

Carlos Duarte, Professor, Red Sea Research Center – Duarte’s leadership in biological oceanography and marine ecology will serve to inform conservation at utmost scientific level. His Red Sea expertise, and versatility as a world-leading marine ecologist, makes him a core part of the environmental protection initiative behind The Red Sea Project.

Aradhana Khowala, CEO & Founder, Aptamind Partners and Chair of TRSDC Advisory Board – Khowala’s accomplishments in travel, tourism and hospitality will lend valuable insight into building and scaling the project. Her appreciation for tourism as a force of good will help bring together luxury hospitality and environmental conservation together with community engagement for The Red Sea Project.

William McDonough, Founder, William McDonough and Partners – McDonough brings a wealth of experience relating to environmental design and sustainable development.  McDonough is a leading environmental thought leader of our time, the co-author of Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things, and a strategic advisor to many of the world’s largest firms. He brings invaluable perspective to all environmental facets of the project.

Frits Dirk van Paasschen, Senior Advisor, TPG Capital – Investment and business expert, van Paaschen has a strong understanding of consumers’ mindset, industry disruption and sustainability. His experience as the former CEO of Starwood Hotels and in the C-suite of various Fortune 500 companies will provide important counsel to The Red Sea Project.

Dr Maryam Ali Ficociello, serves as the Secretary General of the Advisory Board, in addition to her role as Chief Governance Officer at The Red Sea Development Company.