History, Culture, and Adventure: AlUla
Gulf Insider talks to Abdulrahman AlTrairi, Head of Communications at The Royal Commission for AlUla on their projects that bring together history, culture, adventure, and opportunities.
Following the success of the polo and endurance events, do you plan on bringing any other exciting sporting activities to AlUla?
Sports is one of the most important sectors we are targeting, and we are building momentum. Equestrian is a focus for us given the region’s heritage. We recently enjoyed the success of The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques Endurance Cup 2022 and the second Richard Mille AlUla Desert Polo.
We also recently hosted the Saudi Tour in February 2022. Adventure is a real focus in our destination marketing strategy. From April, we will also be offering hot air ballooning, ziplining, cycling, and biking activities. All of these allow people to enjoy the active experience against the stunning backdrop of AlUla.
Where do you see AlUla in 10 years?
In April 2021, we revealed our first master plan – “A Journey Through Time” – which focuses on the main heritage area. It will be delivered across three milestones in 2023, 2030, and 2035.
We see AlUla as an excellent destination for tourism, art, and culture. Its history dates back to over 7,000 years, and people have been living here for over 200,000 years. We’re reviving its legacy as a cradle of creativity from the artists who carved the Nabataean tombs to the statues of the Lihyanite.
Now, we’re reviving ancient handicrafts through cross-cultural exhibits like the Desert X and inviting Hollywood celebrities like Alicia Keys. Having such acts perform in AlUla really opens up this destination to dialogue and cultural exchange.
In 10 years’ time, we will be seen as a destination that inspires, creates, excites, and brings artists together, as well as an inclusive community where people enjoy sporting activities.
Can you tell us how the developments are helping the people of AlUla? What opportunities have they opened up?
Empowering people is at the core of all our plans. In 2018, we began with the first phase of a scholarship program, which enabled students to study at FERRANDI Paris, a Michelin-starred school. We also launched the Hammayah programme to enhance awareness of the value of our heritage and nature. We have 30 storytellers between the four main heritage sites: Old Town, Dadan, Ikmah, and Hegra.
We have several programs for students and entrepreneurs. We recently opened Vibes, an entrepreneur hub to empower small and medium businesses (SMEs).
Our developments are creating many new job opportunities for the locals, which is a major part of the Journey Through Time master plan.
Do you have any plans to promote AlUla as a summer destination?
Our vision for AlUla is to be known as a year-round destination. It’s been off the radar for visitors for so many years, and now we want to share this amazing place with the world.
AlUla is great for outdoor activities and experiences during both summer and winter. We have prepared exhibits and workshops that are to be enjoyed under the palm trees all year round.
What are the logistical infrastructure or development plans that you have for international tourists?
First, we worked on increasing the capacity of the airport. It can now host 15 airplanes and up to 400K passengers per year.
We have opened Habitas and Banyan Tree, and soon opening a boutique hotel in the Old Town. There are many other developments yet to come.
When the final milestone is reached in 2035, we’ll have created 38,000 new jobs for a population of approximately 130,000 people by then, and we’ll have contributed 120 billion SAR to the Kingdom’s GDP.
For more information on AlUla, visit their website.